Larry McCray Blues Without You (KTBA.com)
(Suncoast Blues Society member Gary Weeks contributed the following review for your enjoyment. If you would like to review a new recording, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Blues Without You
The word “comeback” is an old cliche used many times to describe an artist re-entering a profession that sometimes isn’t kind if the individual doesn’t deliver the goods as promised.
That is not the case for blues troubadour Larry McCray. With production duties handled by guitar wizards Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, McCray’s latest offering Blues Without You is full of strong gospel inflected vocals and greasy hot guitar licks that McCray dishes out like a spicy gumbo.
With a Bo Diddley like rhythm, opening track “Arkansas” sets the boogie wheels in motion with McCray reeling off rocking Albert King leads. Keeping the party atmosphere going, “Without Love It Doesn’t Matter” augmented by barroom keyboards and a slithery drum groove is a soul meltdown that doesn’t let up in the hallelujah gospel redemption of “The Good Die Young.”
In “Down to The Bottom” only McCray can take us to church and feel the presence of the almighty. Choir harmonies set this number aglow and guest player Warren Haynes adds searing slide guitar fleshing this song out into deeper southern soul territory.
McCray continues to mine that soul territory in “Breaking News” that pushes Memphis Stax sounds like an old reliable train making its destination to the next stop. There is no overplaying or hot dog tendencies on display as Larry lets the guitar work be in service to the song.
Larry continues his Albert King chops in “Roadhouse Blues” which is not the same tune from The Doors’ infamous Morrison Hotel. The chances are the listener will care less as they hear McCray dip into his mojo bag of leads which he has dozens of. McCray just pours it on letting the guitar hero title cast its shadow.
McCray isn’t ready to leave the roadhouse. The fire and fury unleash itself in the keyboard boogie “Drinkin Liquor and Chasin Women.” The fretboard keeps burning only now Larry bolsters it even more with Chicago slide guitar queen Joanna Connor adding guitar histrionics that are over much too soon.
The title track “Blues Without You” brings the guitar barnyard burning down a bit with strings and horns being the bedrock for Larry’s guitar breaks.
Of course, if Joe Bonamassa is producing you, there you no way you can’t have him guest on a track. In the sleight laidback ambiance of “Mr. Easy,” McCray graciously lets Joe take the spotlight with that trademark Paul Kossoff sound that characterizes his DNA.
Closing acoustic number “I Play The Blues” exits this smorgasbord of soul, blues, and rock on a quiet note. It’s not to be confused with an epitaph. Just another tunnel McCray is opening to the light that sets him free.
- Gary Weeks
Suncoast Blues Society member