Strong Persuader

Robert Cray

Hightone / Mercury Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in 1986, people were saying they had seen the future of the blues, and its name was Robert Cray.

Despite having been around for a few years, it was his album Strong Persuader that opened many people's eyes to the blues, making his Stratocaster sing through some modern-day spins on the old standby. And while this album is quite enjoyable, it doesn't quite satisfy the blues purist.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Cray is both a talented singer and guitar player, there's no doubt about that. His rhythm work sings almost as loudly as his solos; his solos are meaningful, but controlled. (Unlike other Strat "gods" like Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan, Cray is happy to follow in the "less is more" vein.) The songwriting on these numbers show that Cray is a masterful storyteller, but at such a young age, it is sometimes hard to believe that someone like Cray has experienced all the pain and heartbreak he sings about.

And, brother, there's enough heartbreak on Strong Persuader to go around. Whether Cray plays the role of the victim ("Smoking Gun," "I Guess I Showed Her," "Foul Play") or the cause of the pain ("Right Next Door"), Cray does seem to connect on a subconscious level, drawing on a pain that, unfortunately, a lot of us have felt at one time or another.

But if you pick up Strong Persuader expecting to hear 12-bar blues in the tradition of Robert Johnson, you're going to be slightly disappointed. Besides the blues, there are touches of R&B and even a little gospel (at least that I detected) in the music, making this disc a standard for the modern blues movement.

Cray's backing band is strong enough (even though I wish David Olsen had used his hi-hat cymbals more) to back up the powerful guitar licks that Cray pumps out. But in the end, the sound begins to stale a little bit on tracks like "Fantasized" and "New Blood". Still, that's not bad for the big picture.

Cray has never matched the success that he had with this album, which is a shame - from what I've heard of his output, he's constantly proven to be a talent waiting to break out fully. Strong Persuader has some strong material that will please you for years to come, and showed the artist in development.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone / Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.