Robert Cray

Shoulda Been Home

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Perhaps the most telling tune on Shoulda Been Home is the T-Bone Walker-influenced "Renew Blues," not because of the style, but because the slow blues fades out after just one tiny minute. By contrast, the mellow soul sway of "Out of Eden" stretches out to over nine minutes. Robert Cray has been heralded as a savior of modern blues, but the truth is Cray's music is much closer to the vintage soul of O.V. Wright and Otis Redding than the 12-bar form of B.B. King or Albert King. Granted, his punctuating Stratocaster guitar riffs borrow from the books of all the blues masters, but his songwriting and arranging don't. Often backed by arpeggiated guitar chords, Cray's vocals are front and center here, passionately leaning into these predominantly slow or mid-tempo tunes. By contrast, only a couple of cuts are upbeat enough to really get the knees a-shakin'. The infectious opening cut "Baby's Arms" -- the best tune on the record -- could have been a hit single for Stax Records, and Sir Mack Rice's upbeat "Love Sickness" was a hit for Stax Records. Meanwhile, "Help Me Forget," with its mellow, candlelight mood, could have been a hit for Barry White. In fact, most of the tunes on Shoulda Been Home are the perfect compliment for sharing a big can of Schlitz Malt Liquor with the one you love in a dimly lit room. Ironically, three of the 12 tunes herein are much more standard blues forms than Cray may have ever released: the aforementioned "Renew Blues," as well as a pair of Elmore James covers. Robert Cray may be the savior of vintage soul, but he does just enough to warrant the label of "blues savior" as well.

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