The distinguished Detroit-based blues guitarist LARRY MCCRAY releases his new studio album “Blues Without You” this week — March 25th 2022.
The album has been produced by Josh Smith & Joe Bonamassa and will be released via Joe’s non-profit label KTBA Records.
McCray, the second youngest of nine siblings, grew up living on a farm and played on the rustbelt club circuit near Saginaw, Michigan, with his brothers Carl on bass guitar and Steve on drums, in the early 1970s.
After high school, like many, McCray worked on the General Motors’ assembly line. He recorded Ambition, his debut album for Point Blank Records, produced in a Detroit friend’s basement studio, in 1991. He commenced touring with label-mate, Albert Collins.
His 1993 follow-up, Delta Hurricane, was produced by the veteran British blues devotee, Mike Vernon.
In 1999, McCray recorded a cover version of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower for the tribute album, Tangled Up in Blues. Since “Ambition” he’s released a further eight albums.
Writing this album made me feel proud…Larry McCray
This new 2022 album features performances by Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes, Joanna Connor, and Reese Wynans.
“Writing this album made me feel proud,” Larry says.
“It allows others to see me as more than a blues musician […] the songs are reflective of my broad taste in music styles and the subject matter, although personal at times, is relatable to anyone’s life. Hopefully, the words and message of the songs will help others express their feelings in a similar synopsis.”
“I feel totally reborn, with a whole new career, and I’m optimistic about what the future holds…”
So “Arkansas” is about growing up in a rural setting in the 1960s. It has a crisp, refreshing bounce, wonderful beats, and sports a hint of dandy peach blues quite early in the song. The vocal delivery is natural and graceful, like sour cherry & pistachio, and the guitar work is (perhaps as one might expect) breathtaking!
“Breaking News” (video shared below) delivers buttery trumpets, jovial beats and chunky guitar in a number that bounces like a Slab City school bus skipping potholes on a broken road to doom.
It’s a song about instability, struggle, and injustice… and though it harks back to the rockabilly blues era of the mid-1950s, it has its head set in today’s 21st-century concerns (although, it turns out, our anxieties are not very different from those of the fifties: war, ideological clashes, tense geopolitics, the rise of populism, and the impact on the poorest in society.)
sympathetic, hallowed organ and hand-decorated with multi-pleated guitar…Raw Ramp Music Magazine
Sensibly strummed “Down To The Bottom” feat. Warren Haynes is adorned with a sympathetic, hallowed organ and is hand-decorated with multi-pleated guitar… to be further brocaded with velvet orchestration. This is a standout number. Evangelical without preaching and spiritual without pontificating. It is reminiscent of Jackson /Richie’s “We Are the World” (USA for Africa) in terms of accomplishment, compassion, proclamation and emotional accumulation. Very impressive! In fact, we’d say this number is absolutely life-enhancing!
“Drinkin’ Liquor And Chasin’ Women” feat. Joanna Connor is a standard jingling nudge at a typical back-room bar. A regular, robust drumming of bluesy rattle, smash ‘n’ clatter with lots of twisted ruby frets. Yes, a super-loose blessing of authentic blues!
“Mr. Easy” feat. Joe Bonamassa kicks off with a springy bass, a set of supple rhythms, luscious organ, and smooth pillowy horns. The ambience is, of course, velvet soft. And the scene comes to life as Joe brings in a series of flowing lines, which roam & saunter around all those easy-riding grooves. Yeah, this number delivers the infrasonic excitations!
This is a magnificently soulful blues album, seasoned with wisdom!
File alongside: Albert King, Jeremy Spencer, Elmore James
Larry McCray’s new album “Blues Without You” is released by KTBA Records on Friday March 25th via https://shop.jbonamassa.com/collections/larry-mccray
Words: @neilmach 2022 ©
Main photo: © Arnie Goodman