60 DAYS OF STRAT: Robert Cray, multi Grammy Award winning blues and soul artist, is celebrating 40 years of his band in 2014 with a string of tour dates and a brand new album, In My Soul.
His vocal and guitar styles remain as compelling and distinctive as ever on the new release, produced by veteran musician/musical director and long-time friend, Steve Jordan.
We caught up with Cray to find out more about In My Soul, 40 years on the road and a potential new Fender collaboration…
You worked with Steve Jordan as producer on the new record – had you worked together since Take Your Shoes Off (1999) and Shoulda Been Home (2001)?
“No, but we’ve been friends ever since those records, and in fact I’d met him years before then, too. I’d see him here and there and I thought it would just be a great idea to get us back together. We’ve had so much fun – we like and appreciate a lot of the same music and when you work with Steve, he’s like another member of the band. He becomes that in the studio; really hands on and gets everybody involved.”
How did working with Steve differ from working with Kevin Shirley from the last record?
“It’s a different process. My relationship with Steve, I mean Steve is really into sound, and you can hear that sonic difference between the two albums [In My Soul and Nothin’ But Love, 2012]. Also, part of that was the engineer, Niko Bolas. Steve had always worked with Niko, or with Don Smith whenever we worked together and their thing is pure sound, with Steve using vintage gear and microphones. It starts from the drums and works its way up so yeah, a different process.”
Les Falconer is now playing drums and Dover Weinberg is back playing keys – how did this new band lineup come together?
“Well Les has been with us for just over a year now and he’d asked me at one point, ‘If you ever need somebody…’ so at the end of 2012 I made the change. And then more recently, I called Dover back too [Weinberg played with Cray 1974-1979]. It was great, it’s new energy and it just makes it different: change is good.”
Les even sings, right?
“I’d mentioned to Steve before we went into the studio that Les could sing, so he held that in his head. We were close to finishing the record and Steve asked Les to come into the vocal booth and asked him to sing the first verse of Nobody’s Fault But Mine. Les had never done that before, but I’d watched him… I mean Les used to play drums with Keb Mo, and I’d watched him sing background with Keb, and I thought, ‘Man, he can sing!’”