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Call And Response: Robert Cray

The planet’s smoothest bluesman tells us about his new live release, the joy of sweat, why real men play ballads and why he turns up his mistakes.

You can’t begrudge Robert Cray a round of backslaps. In 2015, the one-time baby-faced junior partner of the Showdown! triumvirate is officially an elder statesman, turning 62 and toasting four decades of his band with a forthcoming live CD/DVD release. Comprising 42 songs filmed at four separate venues on the US West Coast, 4 Nights & 40 Years Live is the antithesis of the wobbly YouTube clip, with a fleet of seven cameras capturing every molasses vocal and tickle of Strat vibrato. “We’re doing this project to celebrate 40 years of the Cray Band,” the bandleader tells The Blues on the phone. “So there’s a lot of effort going into making this thing look and sound really special...”

So tell us about the 4 Nights & 40 Years release...

We had a really good time doing it, and we were working with Steve Jordan as producer. I enjoy working with Steve immensely, and any opportunity that I can work with him, I will. The release is a lot of different things. We recorded rehearsals, conversations between the band, we recorded live sets in a lot of very different locales. We did a theatre stage, a party setting, a small club. It’s quite candid. I’m just sitting around having normal conversations and all that. We were all wired up with mics, and the camera people were kinda inconspicuous at points. So it was kinda cool.

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