Robert Cray Band Heavy Picks - The Robert Cray Band Collection

Robert Cray has been stuck between blues and an R&B place for years. Falling between Southern soul and hard-edged Texas blues, his career leans closer to Memphis, edging contemporary blues into "pop" turf. Herein lies the problem. Originally heralded in the mid-'80s as a blues superhero destined to "save" the genre, Cray found himself pushed into a mould not entirely of his making. His trademarked, stinging Strat was just what the blues doctors ordered, and his smooth delivery helped win over new audiences for the blues. Guitar-wise, he shares the tasteful edge of fellow Texan Jimmie Vaughan, but bears a clean, fluid style reminiscent of his mentors, Peter Green and Albert Collins (and, when speed is required, Hendrix). His authoritative vocals have smoothed and matured to the point of emulating his earliest heroes, Sam Cooke and Bobby Bland. Cray's heart lies in blues-injected soul, but I can't help think that this selection of his Heavy Picks (hand-selected by Cray and sampling his career from 1980 to 1997) is Cray's personal response to his blues critics: serving to remind them that his association with the blues is, indeed, a muscular one and, at the same time, allowing music-lovers to listen to, and embrace, the quality of his collected works. If such is the case, Cray has won out on both counts. (Mercury)