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I Was Warned

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Album Review

Robert Cray's soulful vocals and spanky, sustainless guitar enliven the fairly by-the-numbers blues-influenced R&B on I Was Warned. The band itself is solid (especially tough-as-nails drummer Kevin Hayes), if unexceptional; the addition of the Memphis Horns (Andrew Love on tenor sax and Wayne Jackson on trumpet and trombone) on many of these tracks is a definite step in the right direction. However, the tracks are devoid of any kind of dirt whatsoever, which prevents them from really kicking the listener the way that they should. Granted, Cray isn't R.L. Burnside or even Buddy Guy, but a little more grit to the band performances, arrangements, tones, and recording would go a long way toward aiding the emotional kick of his admittedly great set of pipes. Cray is also not aided by the writing, which is hit or miss throughout. Such standout tracks as the anguish-laden "He Don't Live Here Anymore" and the swinging "Our Last Time" serve to offset missteps such as the title track. The production even actually helps the Steve Cropper co-written "On the Road Down," which features a great vocal performance from the leader. In addition to his wonderful singing voice, Cray's unique guitar sound and approach, one of the most distinctive in blues, is on full display on I Was Warned. Take a listen to the beginning of his solo on "Just a Loser," to the way that the phrase just flows out of his guitar in a way that suggests the blues without being overtly bluesy, for a good indication of his extremely effective instrumental skills. His playing is powerful and idiosyncratic, but his intensity and focus are unfortunately not matched by other aspects of this recording. I Was Warned is not a bad Cray album by any means; it just lacks the sort of fire that would make it really take off.


Born: August 01, 1953 in Columbus, GA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Tin-eared critics have frequently damned him as a yuppie blues wannabe whose slickly soulful offerings bear scant resemblance to the real down-home item. In reality, Robert Cray is one of a precious few young blues-based artists with the talent and vision to successfully usher the idiom into the 21st century without resorting either to slavish imitation or simply playing rock while passing it off as blues. Just as importantly, his immensely popular records helped immeasurably in jump-starting the...
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I Was Warned, Robert Cray
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