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Robert Cray - Twenty


Review: Jack Foley

LEGENDARY guitarist, Robert Cray, delivers his 14th album in the form of Twenty (20), a typically sophisticated effort that combines his signature sound with a range of different styles.

The result is a long-player that draws in elements of soul and jazz, with the straight up blues and rock that Cray has made a trademark.

It's a diverse affair that finds Cray exploring the universal theme of love, as well as some more controversial issues, such as the war in Iraq.

The title track, especially, is designed as an intelligent commentary on the war, which draws on the feelings of a nation from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to the present day.

Says Cray: "The song is about a innocent young guy, who, after the events of 9/11, wants to do his part for his country.

"He doesn’t know he’s going to end up in Iraq, watching the horror that’s going on there… and he ends up losing his life. It’s a subject that needs to be spoken about and is in some ways, a continuation from one of the songs we did on the last album (the cut Distant Shores on the 2003 Sanctuary album, Time Will Tell)."

The song which results includes such telling lyrics as 'when you're used up, where do you go?' and 'standing out here in the desert, trying to protect an oil line, I feel like I'm trying to do my job, but this isn't the country I had in mind'.

It is accompanied by some poignant, weeping guitar riffs that provoke instant comparisons with the style of Eric Clapton on tracks such as Tears in Heaven and Wonderful Tonight.

What makes it all the more special is the fact that it tells its story in an unshowy fashion, making its points hit home even harder.

Elsewhere, there is plenty more to admire. Opening track, Poor Johnny, is a feel-good beginning that Cray admits even has a bit of 'reggae or ska' to it, while the jazzy My Last Regret provides an excellent showcase for Cray's silky smooth vocals.

It is quickly followed by the straight-forward blues of It Doesn't Show, which provides a neat platform for his distinctive guitar skills.

For the Robert Cray fanclub, then, this represents another masterful collection of well-considered, insightful tracks that have once again been engineered by Don Smith (The Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Ry Cooder, Miles Davis) and co-roduced by Jim Pugh, Cray's keyboardist of 16 years.

It is this welcome sense of familiarity with each other and their music that keeps Cray and his band at the top of their game.

 

Track listing:
1. Poor Johnny
2. That Ain't Love
3. Does It Really Matter
4. Fadin' Away
5. My Last Regret
6. It Doesn't Show
7. I'm Walkin'
8. Twenty
9. I Know You Will
10. Forgot To Be Your Lover
11. Two Steps From The End

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