Westminster Abbey has been the focus of British royal occasions for centuries, and the early seventeenth century saw the most dazzling musicians of the age writing music for the Court in all its various incarnations. This fascinating disc presents a selection of works from the reign of King James I.
Perhaps the most telling tune on Shoulda Been Home is the T-Bone Walker-influenced "Renew Blues," not because of the style, but because the slow blues fades out after just one tiny minute. By contrast, the mellow soul sway of "Out of Eden" stretches out to over nine minutes. Robert Cray has been heralded as a savior of modern blues, but the truth is Cray's music is much closer to the vintage soul of O.V. Wright and Otis Redding than the 12-bar form of B.B. King or Albert King. Granted, his punctuating Stratocaster guitar riffs borrow from the books of all the blues masters, but his songwriting and arranging don't. Often backed by arpeggiated guitar chords, Cray's vocals are front and center here, passionately leaning into these predominantly slow or mid-tempo tunes. By contrast, only a couple of cuts are upbeat enough to really get the knees a-shakin'. The infectious opening cut "Baby's Arms" – the best tune on the record – could have been a hit single for Stax Records, and Sir Mack Rice's upbeat "Love Sickness" was a hit for Stax Records. Meanwhile, "Help Me Forget," with its mellow, candlelight mood, could have been a hit for Barry White.
Cray found himself in some pretty intimidating company for this Grammy-winning blues guitar summit meeting, but he wasn't deterred, holding his own alongside his idol Albert Collins and Texas great Johnny Copeland. Cray's delivery of Muddy Waters' rhumba-rocking "She's into Something" was one of the set's many highlights…
West Coast vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Robert Lucas forged a path for himself in the blues world after the release of his much-hailed 1990 self-produced debut cassette, Across the River. Based in Long Beach, CA, as a solo artist Lucas recorded for the Audioquest label out of San Clemente. He was also a member of the legendary boogie blues band Canned Heat, singing and playing bottleneck guitar and harmonica with the group off and on starting in 1994. Lucas paid homage to traditional blues but also carefully crafted his own singing and slide guitar style. These talents are on ample display on his Audioquest albums, including Luke and the Locomotives, Usin' Man Blues, Built for Comfort, Layaway, and Completely Blue, all released during the '90s, as well as latter-day Canned Heat albums on the Ruf and Fuel 2000 labels.
Sometimes even the most consistent artists need to shake things up a bit. In Robert Cray's case, that means shuffling his lineup – he retained longtime bassist Richard Cousins but brought in drummer Les Falconer and keyboardist Dover Weinberg – and bringing in producer Steve Jordan, who last worked with Cray on 1999's Take Your Shoes Off. There's a reason this record is called In My Soul: Jordan assists Cray in moving toward Memphis soul, dedicating the entire record to slow, sultry burners that emphasize his mellow vocals and dexterous grooves. This may primarily be a mood record but the individual songs are also quite strong, whether it's the originals ("Fine Yesterday" is so gorgeous it makes heartbreak seem welcome) or sharply chosen covers. Among the latter is a cleanly funky reading of Otis Redding's "Nobody's Fault But Mine," which features Falconer on co-lead vocals, an unusual change of pace for Cray that also signals how the veteran guitarist has been revitalized by his change in companions.
Thrang illustrates the technical virtuosity of Robert Fripp's League of Gentlemen without ever creating truly engaging music. This edition of the band features guitarist Fripp, bassist and former Gang of Four member Sara Lee, drummer Johnny TooBad, and ex-XTC and Shriekback member Barry Andrews on organ. Recorded live on a small club tour, the music does have the spontaneous spark of improvised music, but frequently the songs just sound like a showcase for their talents, not as individual pieces of music. Fripp can play nearly anything – he runs through spiky punk, prog-rock, new wave pop, dance and rock & roll, with flair and expertise.