Blues Bytes


June 2022

an associate

Order this CD today


Larry McCray
Blues Without You

KTBA Records

Larry McCray

Larry McCray burst onto the scene, seemingly out of nowhere, with his 1991 debut for Point Blank Records, Ambition. For this young blues fan, who was still listening to a lot of soul and rock in addition to the blues, McCray’s brand of blues was just what the doctor ordered. He was a monster guitarist capable of playing blues and rock, or a combination of both, but he was also a fine vocalist in a soul and R&B vein. His next couple of albums (another for Point Blank and one for the House of Blues label) were every bit as good and it seemed like he was going to be the next great contemporary bluesman.

In the late ’90s many blues labels fell by the wayside, so McCray ended up releasing a few albums on his own Magnolia label, most of which were and are still difficult to track down (his earlier releases are all out of print). He also battled health and personal issues, along with some management issues that helped stall his career. Despite those difficulties, he never stopped playing and performing, but his last recording was released was in 2015.

Fortunately, McCray connected with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, who produced McCray’s latest release, Blues Without You, on Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive (KTBA) Records.

The opener, “Arkansas,” a blues rocker with a Diddley beat, is a tribute to McCray’s home state and he really digs into it, both vocally and instrumentally. “Without Love It Doesn’t Matter” is a mid-tempo traditional blues with piano from Reese Wynans, with a fine vocal and gritty guitar from McCray. “Good Die Young” picks up the pace with horns and backup singers, giving the song a bit of a gospel feel. The reflective “Down To The Bottom,” keeps an inspirational vibe going, slowly building in intensity with Govt Mule/ABB guitarist Warren Haynes’ slide guitar taking us out.

The topical “Breaking News” is a tasty slice of Memphis soul, complete with strings that sound right out of ’70s-era Hi Records, and a terrifically soulful vocal from McCray. Meanwhile, his wonderful cover of Albert King’s slow burner “Roadhouse Blues” allows the guitarist to put his King influences on full display (Wynans’ B3 backing is superb as well). Joanna Connor sits in on “Drinkin’ Liquor And Chasin’ Women,” a limber, mid-tempo blues rocker, and Bonamassa joins McCray to exchange fiery solos on the funky urban blues “Mr. Easy.” In between these two tracks is the moving title track, dedicated to McCray’s late manager, Paul Coch.

“No More Crying” is a nice southern soul ballad with a fine vocal from McCray, one of many standout vocal efforts on the album, which wraps up with the stirring “Don’t Put Your Dreams To Bed” and “I Play The Blues,” which is McCray solo on acoustic guitar as he reflects on what he does and why he does it.

McCray sounds like a man inspired on these songs, both vocally and on guitar. Bonamassa and Smith have provided the perfect backdrop to let this artist finally have the opportunity to do what he does best and their musical support, along with the rest of the band, is outstanding.

Did I mention that it’s great to have a new recording from Larry McCray??!!! What makes it even better is that it’s probably the best recording he’s ever made from start to finish, and that’s a pretty high standard. To say that I recommend Blues Without You to blues fans everywhere may be the understatement of the year.

--- Graham Clarke



[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]


The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: June 10, 2022 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2022, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.