He suffers from the same fate as welterweight boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya-a perception that he’s too pretty, too clean to be real. Weighed against a legacy of gruff voiced, barrel chested blind and/or otherwise infirmed bluesmen who reputedly sold their souls to the devil, Robert Cray doesn’t stand a chance. He really is too pretty and clean to play into that lore.
Liberated from expectations of what constitutes a real deal “bluesman,” Cray fares much better. No, he’s not in the same league with whiskey drinkin’, razor-totin’, Paul Bunyanesque blues icons like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Little Walter. But as a purveyor of sweet soul music, there is none finer on the contemporary scene than Mr. Cray, whose sultry, sanctified debut on Rykodisc, Take Your Shoes Off, occupies a lofty position somewhere up near Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding on the soul Richter scale.