Robert Cray Slays

Before there was IPA, Seltzer beers, dry or even “Ice” beers there were dark beer. And thanks to Robert Cray many a Gen X-er and late baby boomer knew not to be “afraid of the dark”. Anheiser-Busch used the Robert Cray Band’s song, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” to promote their premium Michelob Dark in 1988. Cray was riding high in the charts introducing a new generation to a modernized style of blues that appeased old school blues fans with appealing to a younger audience. Cray was quite successful charting many singles from the mid ‘80s to the early ‘90s when the music industry as a whole was thrown for a loop by the grunge movement.

Fortunately for Cray the blues never goes out of style. While it doesn’t get much radio play these days or is lumped into the category of adult contemporary radio. Granted, I realize people these days don’t listen to terrestrial radio like they once did, but the beauty of it was introducing people to new artists. Even in the late ‘80s and into the ’90s people were able to get turned on to all styles of music without spinning the dial too much. And while streaming services allow for just about anything to be broadcast regardless of label affiliation – if one at all, people don’t have the chance to discover music they might not usually listen to because playlists are now culled by what we listen to most often and suggestions made to us by that.

When I saw that the Robert Cray Band was coming to town I immediately thought of the Michelob commercial and the two or three radio station I used to listen to that introduced me to a wide variety of artists I discovered like Cray.

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 40 years since everyone discovered Robert Cray. Despite lack of radio promotion the band has been growing strong ever since, releasing a new album last year and continuing to tour. The blues is the one genre of music that never goes out of style. Most other styles of music almost always points to the blues as their genesis.

Performing at Walker Theatre, the Robert Cray Band put on a exercise of why and how the blues remains relevant and continues to grow. The band’s music is modern sounding enough to catch the ear of the young music fan while at the same time to to the older music fan the music fits like a well worn and comfortable sweater on a cool evening.

Cray’s guitar licks were front and center on display. However, unlike other blues acts, Cray’s songs are a collaborative effort as each and every player plays an important role in the relevance of the song. You knew it was the Robert Cray Band and not Robert Cray and his band. Each musician played off each other with with finesse and harmony creating a special evening.

Opening the evening for Robert Cray was Lon Eldridge. Eldridge is a throwback in style, demeanor and fashion and is more than your run of the mill singer/songwriter. His set was entertaining to watch and his talent kept everyone paying attention to his playing style.

– Dave Weinthal