On the phone from LA SARB talks to
ROBERT CRAY about his forth coming tour and his latest CD.
SARB: It's great news for blues lovers that you are touring Australia. "Adelaidians" look forward to catching you at The Entertainment Centre on Feb 13th. You have been to Australia before …
RC: Oh yes. Several times. During the late 80's I believe.
SARB: I am curious about the lineup of the band that will be on tour with you?
RC: Right. Well it's the same band as on the current record with Karl Sevareid on base, Jim Pugh on the organ and Kevin Hayes on drums.
SARB: Your latest CD “Time will tell” …it covers a range of musical genres, it has horns, strings, I heard a sitar in the mix as well, it also has some compelling lyrics about contemporary issues …it looks like a new creative high for you Robert?
RC: Well yeh and I think it's all a result of the fact that Jim contributed as far as songs were concerned and the same with Kevin Hayes our drummer It gave us a nice variety of songs for this record.
SARB: …and we will hear a fair bit of it in the concert over here and probably a few of the old favourites as well?
RC: Got it!
SARB: How do you feel about playing the old favourites Robert …I mean you don't have any lament over that?
RC: It all depends on what songs you know …of course we do things like “Smoking Gun” and “Right Next Door”and play a lot more of the bluesier things …so it's a good thing.
SARB: Numerous Grammy Awards as well as Gold and Platinum records! You have done a lot to promote and extend the boundaries blues music. Congress over there declared 2003 as “The Year of The Blues”. Did that have any relevance or significance for you?
RC: Well the thing that was good for me was I had the opportunity to participate in a live concert at Radio City Hall in New York …with a great backing band …and lots of you know stars and it was good. It was a great opportunity to be there with a lot of different people at one spot at one time …and not only to participate but to also stand in the wings and watch the show. It was great.
SARB The blues in all its forms seems to be as popular as ever. It is for ever evolving. Your latest CD is testament to that …and you have a few decades to reflect on … do you think blues is as vital and as relevant today as is was in the past?
RC: Well I mean the idea of blues is. I think that …like you mentioned music has changed quite a bit and change is good …although I think the music is in desperate need of exposure and even though you know Congress declared it the year of the blues I think that it kind of went over everyone's head and you know radio doesn't play it enough and I still think that a lot more young people need to be made aware of the music and its significance.
SARB: Many Australia have a passion for blues music. Australia parallels England in that it was in the 60's that many of us were introduced to the blues. It was bands like The Animals, John Mayall's Blues Breakers, The Yardbirds and even the early Stones that introduced us to the music of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson …and the list goes on. I am curious about how you came to blues music and those musicians that inspired and influenced you.
RC: Well I came to blues music in a different period and different times. I mean we had some of that music growing up. You know we had BB King and John Lee Hooker records at the house but I can't say that I really paid attention to that music so much until I started playing guitar ...and when I started playing guitar I was influenced by the Beatles …and then a lot of other things you know …I saw Jimmy Hendrix a couple times …and I listened to Eric Clapton's music and then kind of came back around to it through a bunch of my friends and that's when I started raiding my parents record collection.
SARB: You have collaborated with many fine musicians such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker… I am curious about you collaborations with some of the elder statesmen of the blues …you know those blues musicians that would be …like a generation before you …
RC: …maybe even a couple of generations ...as with John Lee Hooker! To have opportunities like that were just fantastic. We were put into situations like when we first met John Lee Hooker we played at a University in the State of Montana. John was solo …he came solo but we had our band as the opening band and then John was going to join us and we were going to follow him. We had never done that before and as everybody knows John has his own way of doing his songs. Like it might not be a steady 12 bar blues …it might be 13 …there could be 14 bars and then a 12 bar turnaround or something like that …who knows …so we were like thrust right into the middle of backing John. We had learned the hard way that you have to pay attention to the front man and not have any pre-conceived notions as to how the song was going to go. That was your best lesson and it was great. Over the years we became good friends. We did a lot of recording and a lot of touring together and stayed in contact on the telephone. It was good. It was a great opportunity.
SARB: …and the collaboration with BB King …
RC: That was great too because it also included John Lee hooker on one of the days that I was there for the Blues Summit Record. It was great because first of all John Lee Hooker and BB King were telling war stories from way back at John Lee hooker's house in 1949. We were listening to those guys joke and kid around. The atmosphere was charged. These guys were like telling these stories and here we are like the young students listening to these stories and just gathering all this information and history. It just became so much fun being in the studio with these guys. The music was basically a sideshow of being there and whatever happened after that was just natural and a lot of fun.
SARB: On the studio side of things, you have been involved a little more with the production side of things on your latest CD?
RC: Oh yeh Jim and I were both producers on this record. I had done production on three other records that we did for Mercury. I invited Jim along this time because Jim has been doing producing for several other bands on his own so we decided to get together on this one and it was great.
SARB: Certainly a productive partnership...
RC: Yes well Jim writes and Kevin writes …so it was like a band record …you know between us.
SABS: You have had a busy year with touring … but have you saved the best for us?
RC: Oh Yeh!
SARB: I am curious about what else is in store for you in 2004 other than the pending tour of Australia?
RC: Well we'll see. We have a lot more touring coming up …there's a few things in the works …but basically we will be touring and we will probably start thinking about doing another recording some time towards the latter part of the next year ready for a 2005 release.
SARB: Thanks for taking time out to talk to us. Our Feb issue will coincide with your tour and this interview and a review of “Time will tell” will be in it.
RC: Alright David and thank you very much.