Robert Cray
" This Time "
Vangard Records

Blueswax 4
Rating 2

Not This Time, (10/14/09)

I remember getting hipped by local radio DJ Gary Walker who announced that Robert Cray (then a new performer) was opening for the Neville Brothers, so I went to the gig and was blown away! But that was nearly thirty years ago, and now for quite some time I've been unimpressed by Mr. Cray's recordings and performances. Unfortunately This Time does very little to change my opinion.

The opening "Chicken In the Kitchen" authored by Cray is a pretty okay tune with some relatively strong guitar work, but the lyrics? "There'll be no more chicken in the kitchen, I'm the best." Come on! The theme is all too familiar. His woman is fooling around, so Cray's not doing any more cooking. Oh, man, can you say check that ego at the door?

Cray's "I Can't Fail" does (fail) and is a lame meandering ballad that goes absolutely nowhere. The excellent keyboard player Jim Pugh contributes to the rubble with his "Love 2009" which is a reggae-ish soul ballad that adds little to This Time. But there's high hopes on Tony Braunagel (Cray's new drummer, ex of B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo', and Taj Mahal) and Johnnie Lee Schell's "That's What Keeps Me Rockin'" which is easily the standout track, and finds the Cray band in fine fettle, especially Pugh's B-3. It's here where Cray soars both vocally and especially with his guitar!

The title track (authored by Cray) amazes me as to why this slow ballad was chosen as the title for Cray's first studio release in five years. Very similar to "I Can't Fail," it's another unmemorable song that wanders off into the deep abyss. There is some good news. Bassist Richard Cousins is back in the band, but the bad news is his "To Be True" co-writtenwith Jim Pugh is another forgettable addition. Sue and Robert Cray's "Forever Goodbye" is another reason I feel that This Time ain't happening. It's yet another boring ballad with no hip hooks or anything that holds my attention. Cray's "Trouble & Pain" is a clunker with an odd beat that sure feels like filler. Richard Cousins' and Hendrix Ackle's "Truce" closes This Time on yet another downer ballad, hurray! When the best tune is co-authored by the drummer ("That's What Keeps Me Rockin'") and not by the leader, you know that spells trouble, and it does. I don't know what happened to this musician (Cray) who I once thought could be a potential heir as the next king of the Blues, who also drew comparisons to the great Otis Redding. That was then and this is now. I think this album should be re-titled to Not This Time.

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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