The end of summer blues |

The end of summer blues

Cassie Pence
Special to the DailyRobert Cray, foreground, is in fine company with, from left, Kevin Hayes, Karl Sevareid and Jim Pugh. The band plays today at the Ford Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m.

VAIL Blues purists and those with R&B leanings will be equally satisfied tonight when axemen Robert Cray and Buddy Guy serve up a hefty dose of sweet potato guitar work.Cray wears his blues influences on his sleeve, but slides R&B, country, Caribbean and even some funk into his songs. His silky voice is the soul of the sound.”I enjoy listening to a lot of different music,” Cray said. “I’m into a lot of older reggae music and jazz and great singers like Sarah Vaughan and Billy Holiday. I listen to Brazilian music. Anything that’s good.”

The band’s influences are evident on its latest album, “Time Will Tell,” a first-time production collaboration between Cray and keyboardist Jim Pugh. Turtle Island String Quartet appears on the songs “Time Makes Two” and “Up in the Sky,” where Cray also experiments with an electric sitar, giving the tune a Beatles-esque quality. The band has always been progressive, not really ever producing a strictly blues album.”I think it is important to not put a block on what you perceive your band’s style to be and just write whatever comes out of your system,” Cray said.Cray writes about the human factor, from war to women to relationships to stories conceived from the blues genre. Cray’s ideas creep up on him, tapping him on the shoulder while he’s in the shower or drinking a cup of coffee. “Once I’m free from the road, my mind clears up. I hear things and they start coming, and I rush to write them down. It’s the music first. The music tells you what to write,” Cray said when asked if he writes the lyrics prior to the music.

Cray recalls first picking up the guitar in the 1960s after hearing the Beatles play on the radio. So just like everybody else, he said, I wanted to be like George Harrison.”But at the same time, I was just thrilled by everything I heard on the radio at that time, and when I first got my guitar I wanted to learn everything,” Cray said.It was that same time that Cray discovered blues a genre that his parents had been listening to for years. Cray bought the records and started falling in love with the music and the stories that followed its players. “And these guys were Buddy Guy and B.B. King and guys with weird names like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and I thought that was pretty cool at 15 and 16 years old,” Cray said.

And then in the 1980s, it was Cray and his band Kevin Hayes (drums), Pugh (keyboards) and Karl Sevareid (bass) that helped to prompt a blues revival. Cray sparked a life back into a genre that originally inspired him to learn to play the guitar.At the time of the interview, Cray had already played two shows with Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy. Guy, who journeyed to Chicago in 1957, is known for his rapid fretwork, high-energy stage presence and vocal style. He is admired by most famous guitarists in the world, including Eric Clapton, who considers Guy to be the greatest guitar player.”Buddy’s great, he’s fantastic. He’s a big hero of mine, and I get to see him play and that’s great,” Cray said.Tickets can be purchased at the Vilar box office, Ford Amphitheater box office, Mojo Music in Avon or by phone at (970) 845-TIXS.Vail, Colorado

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