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A fresh voice in blues

False Accusations
False Accusations
By Robert Cray

HighTone Records: 1985

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This review first appeared in the October 1, 1985 issue of The Daily Aztec.

As this is written, the Robert Cray Band is set to open for blues legend John Lee Hooker Sunday night at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach during filming of the KPBS-TV special, "Three Generation of the Blues." Nothing against Hooker, but Cray just might steal the show.

Cray's new album, his second, starts off strongly, grabbing your attention right away. "Porch Light" has an accessible melody and beat, and Cray's guitar has a distinctive sound that sticks in your head. The real hook, though, is his voice. It's smooth. George Benson Smooth. Combined with his twanging guitar, it's as individual a sound in the blues as has come along in a long time.

Most of the tunes on "False Accusations" deal with the usual blues topics – unfaithful women, lousy jobs, or both. However, some of Cray's material does stand out for their unusual subject matter as well as excellent musicianship. "Sonny," for instance, deals with the singer's best friend asking him to look after his wife while he goes to Vietnam to fight – only the narrator ends up looking after her a little too closely.

Cray wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on this album, and the composition is varied enough to preclude monotony, yet not so diverse as to make the album seem disjointed.

On guitar, Cray's riffs are immediately identifiable. He has a hard, twangy, almost countrified downstroke, which he usually follows with four or five quick strums and then a heavy chord – it's as key to the band's rhythm as the bass or drums.