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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Equal parts Hiatt, Cray cook a recipe for success

South Shore Music Circus, Aug. 1, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

COHASSET, MA - Pairing veterans John Hiatt and the Robert Cray Band may seems like a surefire recipe for success.

No big surprise as the veterans, who are doing a number of dates together this summer and cater to an adult crowd, each amply demonstrated that they each cooked quite well before an enthusiastic crowd.

Hiatt is the harder of the two to buttonhole musically. He tends to focus on a soulful rock sound with some blues and country influences thrown into the mix. Hiatt's voice isn't the prettiest going - it's a bit raw, but it is more than capable.

Hiatt, touring behind "Beneath This Gruff Exterior," offered a host of quality songs. New song "Almost Fed Up with the Blues" was one of the stronger efforts.

And it may be the mark of the duration of his career that he did not feel compelled to trot out old hits. In fact, he played very very few old songs. "Tennessee Plates" was one of the few he did play, and he did a good version of that.

But for those hoping to hear "Thing Called Love," which Bonnie Raitt turned into a huge hit, "Slow Turning" and "Drive South," they would have been sadly disappointed. In reality, however, it's good that Hiatt doesn't feel obligated to rely on the chestnuts.

Instead, he has a lot of more recent songs that are worthy and that can only help extend his already three-decades old career.

Hiatt's backing band, The Goners, was quite good as well with slide guitarist Sonny Landreth leading the way time and again. The rhythm section of bassist Dave Ranson and drummer Kevin Blevins were no slouches either.

After 75 minutes and a very very appreciative response from the crowd, it seemed that Cray would definitely have his work cut out for him.

In a way, that was good because maybe it pushed him to work just that much harder to win the crowd over.

Cray hasn't been around for quite as long, but hits like "Smoking Gun" are on the old side these days. Cray started as a bluesman, but over time, he evolved into a mix of the blues and R&B to good effect.

After releasing "Time Will Tell" a month ago, Cray was up to the challenge. His singing is smooth and works quite well with either the blues or R&B. Cray has always possessed a very soothing voice.

The ability to move between different styles also works well for him. The funky, bluesy, swampy "Back Door Slam" off "Time Will Tell" was particularly effective.

And he wasn't afraid to let the songs stretch out either. Fortunately he has a great veteran backing band that enabled him to do so. Keyboardist Jim Pugh is a powerhouse. Several times, he could barely stay seated. And it was easy to see why with the songs kicking into ever higher gear.

Bassist Karl Sevareid and drummer Kevin hayes did their part as well in making for a great band.

Cray turned in his 75 minutes as well as the co-headliner. He could have had a rough night following Hiatt, but, instead, the result was one part Hiatt plus one part Cray equals an evening of excellent music from a pair of time tested veterans.