“Survivor,” the opening cut on guitarist/singer/songwriter Robert Cray’s ambitious Time Will Tell, tells the story of his career. Cray grew up on the blues, paid his dues on the road during the '70s and '80s, and went on to have hits on rock radio. He’s now settled into a mature career, with a strong following in both the rock and blues arenas. That means he can stretch out and still keep his fans, and that’s just what he does here. The sound of Cray’s electric sitar gives the opening of “Up in the Sky” a '60s Fillmore feel, as if Ravi Shankar were playing with the Electric Flag; when strings enter, though, the tune is back in pop territory. More enticing are the blues-based numbers like “Back Door Slam,” which is a wry take-off on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Back Door Man.” “I Didn’t Know” is the soulful Cray, vulnerable, innocent and sweet as Otis Redding and O. V. Wright. The addition of horns on “Your Pal” takes the music deeper into Memphis Stax/Volt territory. The late-night ballad “Lotta Lovin’ ” could have been covered by Bobby Blue Bland or Johnnie Taylor. More contemporary in feel is “Distant Shore,” written by the band’s keyboardist and co-producer, Jim Pugh, which tells of “war on a distant shore,” kicked up by the quintet’s exciting playing. Yes, the Cray band spreads its wings a bit on Time Will Tell, but it’s the trusted soul-and-blues man that keeps the project grounded.
Performance CreditsRobert Cray Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals,Electric Sitar
Turtle Island String Quartet Strings
David Balakrishnan Violin
Luis Conte Percussion
Kevin Hayes Drums
Jerry Martini Tenor Saxophone,Tambourine
Cynthia Robinson Trumpet
Danny Seidenberg Viola
Karl Sevareid Electric Bass,Acoustic Bass
Mark Summer Cello
Evan Price Violin
Jim Pugh Keyboards
Technical CreditsRobert Cray Producer
Mark Needham Engineer
Mike Kappus Executive Producer
Frank Martin String Arrangements
Frank Gayer Martin String Arrangements
Jim Pugh Producer,String Arrangements
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Time Will Tell based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Astute critics (that is, those who don’t dismiss Cray out-of-hand for his cross-genre forays) have pointed out that Cray is more fully in tune with late-60s and early-70s soul music than traditional blues. Though his guitar leads borrow from the book of B.B., his songs, singing and arrangements look more to the optimistic and rhythmic edge of Atlantic and Stax. His first album for Sanctuary shows off his combined blues and soul to fine effect. ¶ In addition to taking on a co-producer (keyboardist, Jim Pugh), Cray has expanded both his lyrical and musical range. "Survivor" surveys the world’s political turmoil, blending funky second-line drumming and low-end piano runs with Cray’s urban blues. The Family Stone’s Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini’s add sly trumpet work on "Your Pal," and "Up in the Sky" features both an electric sitar (forever bringing to mind B.J. Thomas’ "Hooked on a Feeling") and the fullness of the Turtle Island String Quartet. It’s an engaging pop turn that’s sure to make the blues purists howl. ¶ The album does have some more calculated moments, but they’re balanced by soulful exchanges like Cray’s chording and Pugh’s organ on "Spare Some Love?" It’s exactly when Cray bends soul into a blue groove (something he does here more often than not) that he brings invention to his music - invention that reinvigorates his blues and soul sources. ¶ 3-3/4 stars, if allowed fractional ratings.