Robert Cray was the blues laureate of infidelity in the '80s and early '90s, a smooth and innovative classic-soul craftsman who brought synthesizers to blues, gave John Lee Hooker a career-jolting backing band, and crossed over to MTV with 1986's "Smoking Gun" on pure strength of haunting riff, murderous lyric, and tersely expressive guitar solo. Cray may be best known for that and other songs included on the 1999 Mercury retrospective Heavy Picks—The Robert Cray Band Collection, many written by longtime producer Dennis Walker. But he won a Grammy for that same year's post-Mercury, post-Walker Take Your Shoes Off, a straight-up tribute to the Hi Records sound. And the 2006 concert album Live from Across the Pond showcases an increasingly rich '00s career, culminating in Cray's own "Twenty." Drawn from the 2005 album of the same title, this live version belongs on any mix of essential anti-Iraq War tracks, sung from the point of view of a soldier in the desert who signed up after 9/11 ("This ain't the country that I had in mind"). It captures so much of what Cray does beautifully besides convince you he's a cheater: Within a few words and snapping guitar gestures, he makes a world open up out of his blues. 21+.
Thu., July 2, 8 p.m., 2009
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