Robert Cray Time Will Tell

Robert Cray is loved by two distinctive audiences: pure blues fans on one side, R&B fans on the other. Some 13 albums ago, he represented the great new hope for Texas blues — his stinging Strat and smooth vocal style beckoned a revitalised audience for the blues. Grammy nods paved the way for a new Messiah from behind the sizeable shadows cast by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert Collins. However, Cray wanted nothing to do with it. He has gradually taken his vocal prowess and personal tastes into Memphis territory, his last few releases championing the Hi and Stax catalogues, supplemented by his own authentic originals. This new disc should bring the two sides closer together — this is pure, surprisingly muscular, Cray at his most inventive — fusing his understated guitar precision to hook-laden classics (five Cray originals/five written by his band) that combine heart of soul with the testosterone of the blues. These songs are good and there are lots of them, the best tracks including "What You Need (Good Man),” "Back Door Slam” and the distinctive, sitar-driven "Up In The Sky.” Sure there are strings and talk of his being "adventurous.” But the bottom line is that Cray delivers on some tasty lead guitar work that has been, it seems, such a long time coming. And the entire band delivers on powerful and original compositions. Time Will Tell marks a definitive return to form for Robert Cray and will satisfy the cravings of fans that demand a lot from him — no matter which camp they’re in. (Sanctuary)