Before the craving for Cray was satisfied, the crowd was served a juicy appetizer in the guise of Michael Ray who last was at the Rogue opening for Dave Mason in October. I wrote then that I would be glad to see him and any of his band mates again and, though it was just Ray on stage, he is still a cool blues cat, still plays his Fender Stratocaster upside down, and still pumps out original and entertaining numbers. I talked to him later as he stood outside the theatre in the cold, guitar on his back, waiting for a cab to take him to the bus station for the long ride back to Sacramento. He is just as nice as he is talented. I hope he remembers these days when he was really good, just not famous. I’m betting somebody will be opening for him one day.
And then there was Robert Cray who was in the house this December 6th. I missed him the last time he was here so I was happy to be part of the appreciative audience that spread some love for this superlative band. A couple of times Cray asked, “Is this really Wednesday? Seems like a Friday night!” because the crowd was so lively. Now in his mid sixties, Cray has been around for 30 plus years, honing his skills as a versatile guitarist and singer. His roots are in soul and R & B and he’s played with some of the greats in blues and jazz. His critics have said that he’s just a little too smooth, not the real, raw deal like some of the folks who have influenced him, such as Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. That didn’t stop him from winning more than a few Grammys and developing a successful career. The phrase “consummate professional” comes to mind and the set he and his band performed was tight, technically close to perfection and everyone knew what they were about. There was, of course, Cray with that creamy voice, exhibiting superb control and lots of range. That goes for his guitar playing as well. Long time band mate Richard Cousins played several bass guitars from an old school hollow body to a later model Fender. Complete masterly here. Looking like an accountant who had just escaped the office was Dover “White Cliffs” Weinberg on keyboards. Looks are deceiving because the man played with soul and style. Terrance Clark on drums was also a wonder and, excuse the pun, didn’t miss a beat. We heard upbeat rhythm and blues, some soulful ballads, a little funk, and a bit of sassy jazz. Cray’s style is as versatile as it is distinctive. I know it’s him within a few seconds of hearing one of his songs . And I listen with enjoyment every time. If you want to see Cray and the band any time soon, good luck. He’s touring in Australia starting early next year. He’ll be back to the Rogue, though. We have a grand old gal of a venue and crowds that know how to show their support.
Catch you on the flip side…