The multi-award winning Georgia-born singer, songwriter and guitarist plays with and pays tribute to a few of his earliest heroes
Right from the beginning Robert Cray cited soul singers such as O.V. Wright and Al Green as major influences on both his songwriting and singing. Royal Studios in Memphis where Willie Mitchell originally laid down their works was still doing business and most of the Royal’s house band that had played for them was still around and laying down the grooves for anyone who had the sense to hire their services. Robert Cray and producer/drummer Steve Jordan had an idea…
Such a project could well have failed despite the best of intentions but this album neither crashes nor burns. It’s simply one of the best that Robert Cray has done in years. The wealth of experience behind Hi Rhythm combined with Jordan’s expertise ensures that the backdrop is there to showcase Cray’s own well-honed talent – it’s not stated enough but he is as good a singer as he is a guitarist. Whether it’s the mellow funk groove of Bill Withers’ The Same Love That Made Me Laugh, the shift into cruise control of O.V. Wright’s You Must Believe In Yourself or Cray’s own Memphis gumbo on You Had My Heart you know that you are in the safest of musical hands.
Other truly great songwriters featured here are; Sir Mack Rice (thankfully not his Mustang Sally), Lowman Pauling of The 5 Royales, and Tony Joe White who also dropped in to play some swampy guitar and mouth organ on his two contributions.
Verdict: If you want to hear what Cray has to say, this album is a great place to start