Robert Cray celebrates 25 years of touring this year and he thinks it’s about time to lay back and enjoy himself. And that’s just what Cray and his band do on TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, a set of soul that props its feet on the console of the Hi and Stax studios of the ‘60s. The opening cut, “Love Gone
to Waste,” was even co-written by Willie Mitchell, who producing credits include the best of Al Green and Ann Peebles. But the real news in this bluesy set is Cray’s voice. Rather than straining to be heard over rockin’ instrumentation, Cray’s vocals are out front and for the first time, full-bodied and husky, wrapping around the lyrics like a velvet cape. He
comes across on both ballads and up tempo numbers as what an earlier album titled hinted at, a Strong Persuader. Cray’s songwriting too has matured and instead of taking off from the blues tunes of the ‘60s originals like “Pardon” and “All the Way” (which his wife Sue Turner-Cray co-wrote) are
stories from today’s relationships. TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF is Cray’s most interesting set to date.