Release Date: July 27, 2010
After decades of serving up smooth, soul-infused blues, singer and master guitarist Robert Cray has at last released a live DVD to give viewers at home the chance to experience one of music’s classiest acts. Fortunately for us, Cray made sure to get things done right.
The camera work is excellent, with edits lingering long enough on individual shots to spotlight the playing. His creative chord voicings, which help elevate excellent songs like ‘Our Last Time,’ ‘One In The Middle’ and ‘Time Makes Two’ are well-framed by the skilled camera crew.
Cray’s distinctively Stratty guitar playing is outstanding, and the many nuances in his bends, vibrato and pick attack are ably captured here. The mix itself is strong, with a good balance between the instruments, although Cray’s vocals are mixed high enough that they occasionally obscure his great guitar work. Happily, during his many excellent solos, his playing always comes through with perfect clarity.
Although Cray’s expressive voice and playing shine throughout blues jams and ballads alike, he is at his very best during soulful numbers like ‘Love 2009,’ ‘Lotta Lovin’’ and ‘Time Makes Two.’ ‘Love 2009’ in particular is loaded with earnest passion and a chorus that hits home every time, while the uptempo ‘Chicken In The Kitchen’ is both fiery and filled with cheeky, good-natured humor. Cray’s guitar playing stands out during concert staple ‘Smoking Gun,’ where his barrage of dynamic and wrenching solos drive the performance to escalating heights.
The chemistry between Cray and his band persists through every solo, every transition and every ending and gives the entire set an incredibly intimate vibe. When Cray takes his second solo in ‘Anytime,’ the dynamic drumming of Tony Braunagel helps him expand the emotional impact of his solo by ratcheting up the intensity at the ideal moment.
Throughout the set, the smooth and rumbling tone of Richard Cousins’ bass playing is matched by his unshakable groove and playful, engaging stage presence. Although the string patch during ‘Time Makes Two’ could be more organic, everything else in keyboardist Jim Pugh’s array of sounds suits the soul and blues settings nicely, and his solo during ‘One In The Middle’ is so tasteful that it becomes a natural extension of the song.
After the show is over, the DVD still has a few bonus features to unveil – including a nice set of interviews with Cray and his band about his background, the formation of the band and the development of their latest album, This Time. All in all, this DVD/CD package has a lot to offer fans of modern blues and soul, and is essential for followers of Robert Cray.