Robert Cray and his band made a stop at the Samala Showroom at the Chumash Casino Resort on September 19 and the 5-time Grammy winner delivered his brand of blues with a stellar band consisting of long-time friend and bassist back for a second stint with the band Richard Cousins (B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison, Albert King, Dru Hill), drummer Les Falconer (Billy Preston, Troop, Toni Braxton, Evelyn Champagne King, The O’Jays,, Keb’ Mo’, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack) and amazing keyboardist Jim Pugh, a cornerstone of the guitarist’s group since 1989.
A interesting trivia question on the house monitors reminded me that Cray was the uncredited bassist in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights in the 1978 movie ‘Animal House.’ I had forgotten about that, as Cray was just a kid when that movie was shot. He certainly has had an amazing career, playing with all the legends: John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Keith Richards, Chuck Berry and countless others. He was the opening act on the Eric Clapton/Stevie Ray Vaughan tour that night in Wisconsin when SRV died in the helicopter crash. The man is one of our contemporary blues legends, and it was truly a joy to see him for the first time in the Samala Showroom.
Robert describes his sound this way: “Every time somebody asks me about where my music comes from, I give them five or six different directions – a little rock, soul, jazz, blues, a little gospel feel. Then there are some other things that maybe fall in there every once in a while, like a little Caribbean flavor or something. You just never know. I always attribute it to the music we grew up listening to, and the radio back in the ‘60s. It’s pretty wide open. It’s hard to put a tag on it.”
The band showcased their amazing talents with a audience of core followers that were captivated by each and every guitar lick from the opening song from Robert’s latest album ‘Nothin’ But Love,’ ‘Won’t Be Comin’ Home,’ to the encores of ‘A Memo (Nothin’ But Love),’ and ‘Time Makes Two.’ The band played many selections from the new album, which many say is his best solo album in years.
Robert’s comical banter with the audience added to the vibe in the room, and additional fan favorites like ‘Right Next Door,’ ‘Back Door Slam,’ ‘Bad Influence’ and more added to this special night of music. I did find it curious that the band didn’t play his most popular mainstream track ‘Smoking Gun,’ but that took nothing away from this night of great contemporary blues.