VETERANS MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM
Sunday, April 3, 8:00PM
with Birds of Chicago opening
$32 members, $42 non member:
Bleachers general admission
(Ticket prices includes $2 facility fee. Does not include applicable fee for online purchases.)
$27: standing/dancing behind Row Q.
(Ticket prices includes $2 facility fee. Does not include applicable fee for online purchases.)
“…(Cray) introduced a new generation of mainstream rock fans to the language and form of the blues.” – Rolling Stone
“…one of the most reliable pleasures of soul and blues for over three decades now.” – The New Yorker
“What an incredible singer Cray is. He’s well-known —justifiably—for his six-string prowess and ability to plow through straight-ahead blues, but this one comes from somewhere deeper inside of him—it’s got blood, sweat, tears and, yes indeed, lots of soul.” – Connect Savannah
“reinvented the blues with his distinct razor sharp guitar playing.” – “ Rolling Stone
Five time Grammy winner Robert Cray is celebrating forty years since the formation of the Robert Cray Band – a musical journey he began with longtime bassist and childhood friend Richard Cousins and current keyboardist Dover Weinberg.
In My Soul debuted #1 on the blues album charts including Billboard and iTunes; and after a run of sold out performances across Europe. Produced by longtime Cray friend Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards), In My Soul is the seventeenth studio album from the legendary axman.
Recently featured on NPR’s World Café and NPR’s Mountain Stage Cray is widely recognized as one of the greatest guitarists of our time.
The youngest living member to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, Robert Cray has sold over 12 million records, has his own line of Fender guitars and has established himself as a genre defining artist- a signature blend of r&b, pop, rock, soul and traditional blues.
The Robert Cray Band includes Cray (vocals/guitar), longtime bassist Richard Cousins, Dover Weinberg (back with the band on piano/keyboard) and Les Falconer (drums).
Growing up in the Northwest, Robert Cray listened to the gospel of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Bobby Bland’s soul, Jimi Hendrix’s rock guitar and the Beatles pop sounds. He would bring all of the influences into play throughout his career, but his teenage band was captivated by Southern Soul and the blues. “In the early days of the band we were getting back into O.V. Wright and paying attention to my favorite blues players; Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Albert King and especially Albert Collins.” Cray says.
The Texas-born blues guitarist known as Master of the Telecaster, Albert Collins, sealed the deal on the Cray Band’s early direction. The musical highlight of Cray’s senior year was his class voting to bring Collins in to play a graduation party.
The glow of a career in music began when Cray was a teen, and in 1974 it burst into flames as the Robert Cray Band came together in Eugene, Oregon. How strong was the fire? “Richard and I didn’t own a vehicle, and we were staying with his girlfriend in Eugene. We hitched a ride to Salem, where our drummer Tom Murphy was going to school, to rehearse,” Cray recalls.
With the group’s 1980 debut release, Who’s Been Talkin’, word about the Cray Band began to spread across the Northwest and down in to California. Playing packed bars and roadhouses the Cray Band was thrilling. Yes, fans could hear an Albert Collins guitar riff and a Howlin’ Wolf song but the sound was present. Blues and soul fans showed up religiously, but those steamy raucous sets also drew crowds whose tastes in music ranged from rock to funk and jazz.
Also among the Cray Band admirers were other musicians. John Lee Hooker put his appreciation into action. “The first time we played with Hooker was in Montana. We were opening the set and he was playing solo,” Cray recalls. “We’d never met him before but he just walked on stage and started playing with us. We dug the hell out of the guy, and after that we were friends.”
The Cray Band’s next two releases – Bad Influence and False Accusations – charted, taking the four-piece’s sound across the airways and abroad. The group was on a roll, but the players slept on couches. “We were just road rats,” Cray says with a chuckle. “We’d take a break for two weeks to record, then go back out. We didn’t have a house, a home, any of those responsibilities.” On one of those breaks Cray went into the studio with Collins and another great Texas guitarist and singer, Johnny Clyde Copeland, to record Showdown!, a CD that has become essential to any 80s electric blues collection.
It was the sounds of the blues and soul that first drew attention from artists in the rock arena. In an interview on the DVD included in 4 Nights of 40 Years Live, Eric Clapton gives his initial response to Robert Cray saying, “As a blues fan, we’re saved.” The Cray Band’s beginnings did bring the sounds of its mentors into the mainstream, even taking the music of John Lee Hooker, Etta James and Albert Collins to a larger, younger audience. But no one knew how broad the band’s audience would be until the Cray Band opened the ears of rock radio programmers. With the 1986 release of Strong Persuader the Cray Band’s tunes were put in heavy rotation on mega rock stations across the nation. The first hit, “Smoking Gun,” was followed by “I Guess I Showed Her” and “Right Next Door (Because of Me).” The Cray Band’s next two releases, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Midnight Stroll, brought more radio listeners to record stores, increasing sales of the group’s CDs.
Following the path of fame taken by blues-based rockers like Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Cray became a sensation, leading his band in concerts at large arena and rock festival. He was the first African American artist since Jimi Hendrix to rise to such fame in rock music. Was there a change in the band’s direction or had the blues arrived again into the mainstream after more than three decades of being forgotten by radio? “We were doing blues and Rand B from the first,” Cray says. “That’s just part of what we do. If you’re writing a tune it’s only natural to grab something from someplace else. You’re gonna put in some soul changes and some jazz, something you’ve been listening to. With what we do there’s a whole lot of room to move.”
Clapton’s admiration for Cray led to a writing collaboration on the hit “Old Love,” which featured Cray on guitar. A call came from Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richard who asked him to be in the film he and Steve Jordan were producing about the rock guitarist Chuck Berry, “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Concert footage in the film features Richards, Jordan, Clapton, Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt and Etta James. Cray performs “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” with Berry. Dressed in a baby blue tuxedo jacket, the young guitarist is the epitome of the tune’s title. Cray also performed on the Tina Turner TV special “Break Every Rule.”
During the 90s the Cray Band was featured in concert with artists like Clapton, the Stones, John Lee Hooker, BB King and Bonnie Raitt, who on the DVD declares the band leader is “an original; he’s passionate, he’s a bad ass and puts on one of the best shows you’ll ever see.”
In the next decade the Cray Band recorded seven CDs, three of them live, and two – Twenty and This Time – were nominated for Grammys. The group’s most recent recordings, Nothing But Love and In My Soul put the band back on the Billboard Charts.
The multimedia 4 Nights of 40 Years Live is a testament to the band’s longevity and vitality. The 80s concert footage is exuberant and shows the charisma of Young Bob (a reference in song that Cray makes to himself in homage to Muddy Waters calling himself Young Muddy) as a guitarist, vocalist and band leader. The live performances at recent concerts capture seasoned musicians bringing a vivid, illustrative past into the moment. Cray’s Stratocaster solos sing, cry and take on the funk. His voice has grown richer and wiser yet remains sweet.
it is extraordinary for musicians to thrive over four decades, and the Robert Cray Band is just that, an extraordinary story of success. On the DVD Texas blues and R&B artist Jimmie Vaughan sums up Robert Cray’s singularity and success simply when he says, “He’s got one foot in the future and one foot in the old stuff.”
Birds of Chicago
In so many ways, we are a word weary culture, ever searching for ways to communicate in fewer and fewer words, letters, syllables…Our online, blogged out, you-tubed attention spans are truncated and fragmented like never before. Birds of Chicago, the collective centered around Allison Russell and JT Nero, reassert the simple notion – radical in these times – that beautiful words and music can still tap deep veins of emotion.
real midnight’s gonna come/ real midnight’s’ gonna come real wolves at your door/ with blood on their tongues now what you gonna do/ with your days left in the sun ? ha da la ha
Stark, elemental imagery that feels like scripture, or a lost folk song recovered; the Birds draw heavily on the gospel tradition and the music feels like a new, secular gospel of sorts. For Birds of Chicago, every word counts. Every note counts. No gold-dusting, no filler. Music is the good news and Real Midnight, the band’s poignant new Joe Henry produced album, throbs with an urgency that feels quietly seismic.
Birds of Chicago was born in 2012 when Nero began writing for his vocal star-muse, Russell. Both were accomplished singer/songwriters with projects of their own, Nero with JT and the Clouds and Russell with the acclaimed Canadian roots outfit Po’ Girl, but together there was an unmistakable chemistry. Nero had found the perfect voice for his rock and roll psalms. Russell moved from being a primary songwriter to an interpreter, and her simmering restraint is deeply refreshing to a landscape scorched by post Voice/American Idol vocal gymnastics and over-emoting.
On Real Midnight, Birds of Chicago alternate moody rock swagger with the ghostliest of soundscapes. Produced by Joe Henry, a man who’s expert blending of light and shadow is well known, the album is a melancholy – but never shoe gazing – suite, full of wayward, joyful, lonesome voices raised up against the night.
Music this raw and soul-rich demands to be experienced live, and Birds of Chicago have developed a fervent following, touring 200 nights a year since their formation in late
2012. For these Birds, singing for a room full of new people, hearts wide open, keeps off the cold and chases off the shadows. 2016 will find the band in constant motion – from sea to sea and beyond.