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Album Review: Larry McCray - Blues Without You

Artist: Larry McCray

Album: Blues Without You

Release: 2022

Rust belt blues shouter and guitar slinger Larry McCray was born in 1960 in Magnolia, Arkansas. He spent his early years on a farm as the second youngest of nine siblings. By the late ’80s, Larry had attracted the attention of Virgin Records executive John Wooler, who had recently started a subsidiary label, Point Blank Records, featuring blues, soul and Americana artists. He signed Larry McCray as his first artist. Larry’s debut album, Ambition was released in 1990 to critical acclaim.

Throughout the 1990s, Larry continued to help define blues rock by collaborating with artists such as labelmate and fellow guitarist, Albert Collins, and releasing the much more slickly produced Delta Hurricane in 1993 (produced by British blues maven Mike Vernon), Meet Me at the Lake in 1996 and Born to Play the Blues in 1998.This latest release Blues Without You is a 12 song blues masterpiece, produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith. If there were any justice in the music world this album would've seen a Grammy nomination. Warm vocals, great playing, superb songs and production make this a must hear release.

Arkansas is a tremendous opening cut to the album. Coming out of the chute with a Bo Diddley beat, stinging guitar, impeccable vocals and hip horns sets this album in motion for what is coming down the rails. With a lyric that rhymes Arkaknsas and coleslaw I am happily hungry for more! On a scale of one to ten this is a twelve!

Just a couple of tracks later, Good Die Young jumps out on the first listen. A funky 4/4 backbeat that would've been right at home in The Blues Brothers movie. It also reminds me of something that Albert Collins would have embraced. Lots of clever little details make this track come together at the highest levels of performance and production.Breaking News is another fantastic song reminding me of The Temptations. With strings, horns and a driving beat this is a head bopper if there ever were one. It definitely has more of a soul vibe than blues, which I don't mind at all. When it's this good, call it whatever you like. I call it inspired!

If you like your blues a bit more on the straight ahead traditional side you may like the 12 Bar shuffle Drinkin' Liquor and Chasing Women or the slow sizzle of Roadhouse Blues. Both being fantastic performances on classic blues changes, done with painful authenticity.

It is hard to pick only a few tracks that are standouts from this fine record. There just isn't any filler at all. Larry McCray is a musical force to be reckoned with. He has most of his musical weight anchored in the blues, with just enough spice to separate his record from the many, putting him in company with the few that are an absolute must hear. A quote from Joe Bonamassa sums it up  "He knows he’s a badass, he just needs to be reassured and reassure himself that he can stand up there with the greats."


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