Robert Cray

Take Your Shoes Off

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It's evident right from the start that Robert Cray's aiming for a Memphis soul groove on Take Your Shoes Off. Willie Mitchell of Hi Records fame co-wrote and did the horn arrangements for the lead-off cut, "Love Gone to Waste," and Jim Pugh's burbling organ would have fit snugly into the mix of an early '70s Al Green record. The blues is not missing from this effort, but is most present in Cray's usual assertive blues guitar lines. Otherwise, this is far more appropriately pegged as a blues-soul album, or even just a retro-soul album, than a straight blues one. Cray, indeed, only writes about half of the songs, covering soul classics identified with Mack Rice's "24-7 Man" and Solomon Burke's "Won't You Give Him (One More Chance)," as well as Willie Dixon's "Tollin' Bells." No one would be claiming that this disc plows new territory, but to Cray's credit, he fits the quasi-Hi and (less frequently) Stax-type grooves with an unforced ease. It's a lot harder to do than it sounds -- for Cray or anyone in the late 1990s -- and it's frankly more interesting than a straightahead blues album from the singer-guitarist would have been.

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