I’ll say it, even though its been said a hundred times before, by a hundred different critics, in a hundred different places. It’s Texas blues laced with soul. Or, if you like, it’s dark, heavy soul, with a hearty helping of blues on the side. How about this one: it’s blues with an Otis Redding edge.
Every time I see a Robert Cray review, these types of comments just jump off the page, as if no one’s ever said them before. Well, there’s a reason that no one can come up with anything new to say about Robert Cray: he’s been doing the same stuff for 20 years. And, thankfully, he’s great at it.
Heavy Picks - The Robert Cray Band Collection moves its way from his 1980 major debut, Who’s Been Talkin’ (released on the ever popular Tomato Records) all the way to his final release on Mercury, 1997’s Sweet Potato Pie. The album is not arranged strictly chronologically, which actually helps the overall mood and flow of the album. It definitely worth your bucks, especially if you don’t own all of the 10 albums featured on this compilation.
The guitar work on Heavy Picks highlights the different styles of soloing and rhythm playing that Cray has drifted into and out of over the last two decades. He’s got smooth, sometimes nearly ambient rhythms, contrasting with the nastiest, heaviest sounding soloing since Albert Collins, who, incidentally, Cray’s band backed in the late ‘70s, and did an album with in the ‘80s, (1985’s Showdown). Cray’s ability to mold a song around his guitar and steady, sturdy, vocals keeps each and every song up-beat and moving. At the core, the rock solid rhythm section keeps the whole thing kicking throughout, with a whole lot of funk and soul.
This is the kind of compilation that could really turn a casual fan into a die-hard, who may feel the urge to go out and buy every single one of the releases from an artist. After my first listen, I went out and found a copy of Who’s Been Talkin’, and I am sure in the weeks to come, I’ll try to expand even further on my collection from the earlier years of The Robert Cray Band. If you check out this disc, you’re likely fall into the same category.