Thursday, June 20, 2024

Down to the Bottom with Larry McCray

Poised to become a genre-shaping staple with the release of two major label albums in the 90s, rustbelt blues singer and guitarist Larry McCray proves he’s been hiding in plain sight with the release of Blues Without You, his first album in nearly seven years.

Its out now on Keeping the Blues Alive Records (KTBA Records), as is his latest single ‘Down To The Bottom‘ that guest features Gov’t Mule front man and former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes.

It starts as a deceivingly simple but effective slow Americana blues number, sung earnestly. Mainly acoustic, with a gospel harmony swing, the horns somehow evoke the proud melancholy evidenced in North English brass bands rather the sweltering sounds of Stax, then Hayes joins him as electric six strings burn bright near the end… As you can see for yourselves via the video presented here at RAMzine.

Throughout his career, McCray’s life has imitated the rags-to-riches stories of the blues. His musical journey’s taken him through many twists and turns, personal hardships, and dark moments. After meeting his current companion and collaborator, Peggy Smith, Larry found peace and was rediscovered by kindred spirits in Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith.

This latter pairing having produced Blues Without You – The 12-track collection also features performances by Bonamassa, Warren Haynes, Joanna Connor, and Reese Wynans.

“Writing this album made me feel proud, as it allows others to see me as more than a blues musician,” said McCray.

“The songs are reflective of my broad taste in music styles and the subject matter, although personal at times, is relatable to anyone’s life. Hopefully, the words and message of the songs will help others express their feelings in a similar synopsis.

“I feel totally reborn, with a whole new career, and I’m optimistic about what the future holds,” McCray continued. “But truthfully speaking, sometimes I do wish it would have happened 30 years ago. I would have been much more qualified for the job at that age than at 62,” he laughed.

“Larry McCray is a legend,” praised Bonamassa. “We have known that for 30 years. He is the last of the great blues shouters from the rust belt. In the spirit of BB King, Luther Allison and Little Milton, Larry is among the greats. It’s now up to the world to rediscover him. He has been here all along.”

“Working with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith as producers was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said McCray. “Having known and respected them as accomplished musicians first, it allowed me to trust their opinions even more and made this an incredibly fulfilling project.”

The first single from the new album was ‘Arkansas’, an ode to McCray’s childhood in his home state and an anthem for those who grew up similarly. “This song is a reminder of my childhood, growing up in rural Arkansas in the 60s,” McCray elaborated.

“Feeding hogs, bailing straw, amongst all the other chores that a kid of that generation had to perform, and still, we found a way to find the joy and make it seem as though it was no work at all.

“I hope the people can feel that spirit when they listen to this music that was born from a generation whose prime has long come to pass.”

You can stream ‘Arkansas’ here and check out the official music video right here at RAMzine.

More recently came ‘Breaking News’, the second single from the new album. A foot-tapper with added Philadelphia-groove, its upbeats sounds belie the social commentary present in the lyrics.

You can stream the new single by clicking here and check out the official video for it right here at RAMzine.

Rolling in easy like the afternoon freight train into town, the sudden blast of a tenderly squeezed guitar crying out grabs the listener’s attention.

McCray then takes us along on a narrative born of his own youth, bringing a vocal warmth that’s nicely reminiscent of John Oates’ similarly titled roots rock number albeit with added blues hollering, while musically it thumps and grinds like a mellower take on multi-racial funk rocking Mother’s Finest 70s single ‘Mickey’s Monkey’ by way of Bo Diddley.

McCray’s guitar bleeds through intermittently throughout, and the tone remains captivating. That the photos show him with Flying V Gibson in hand come as no surprise when you hear his playing – It bites just the same way blues legend Albert King, Wishbone Ash‘s Andy Powell or UFO‘s Michael Schenker have when they’ve played that particular axe.

Blues Without You features the tracks ‘Arkansas’, ‘Without Love It Doesn’t Matter’, ‘Good Die Young’, ‘Down To The Bottom’ (featuring Warren Haynes), ‘Breaking News’, ‘Roadhouse Blues’, ‘Drinkin’ Liquor And Chasin’ Women’ (featuring Joanna Connor), ‘Blues Without You (For Paul)’, ‘Mr. Easy’ (featuring Joe Bonamassa), ‘No More Crying’, ‘Don’t Put Your Dreams To Bed’ and ‘I Play The Blues’.

You can order Blues Without You here.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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