It's easy to take Robert Cray for granted, for the singer-guitarist has altered his approach so little since he first burst on the scene. Nonetheless, the changes from his early albums to Some Rainy Morning are no less real for having been subtle. Cray is still combining urban-blues guitar and Southern-soul vocals on stories of romantic treachery and working-class frustration, but he has distilled that strategy until nothing superfluous remains. "Some Rainy Morning," recorded with his stripped-down road quartet, is full of breathing room so Cray's singing and playing are set off more dramatically than ever. In addition to the eight originals by Cray and his bandmates, the album includes remakes of Wilson Pickett's "Jealous Love" and Syl Johnson's "Steppin' Out," and Cray does a great job of matching Pickett's raucous shouts and Johnson's silky crooning. On his own songs, Cray sounds better than ever when he's holding out notes for effect or communicating paradoxical emotions. When he proclaims, "I'll Go On" loving his ungrateful woman, you can hear the extreme effort such loyalty requires. And when he insists that his ex-lover "Never Mattered Much" to him, you can hear just how much her absence continues to tear at him. --Geoffrey Himes
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