You buy the ticket, you take the ride. I don’t know what made me decide to plunk down the money to buy Robert Cray’s Cookin’ in Mobile because my previous forays into the Cray catalog have left me scratching my head. Each time I’ve tried one of his records I found myself trying hard to like what I was hearing but feeling just a little unsatisfied but something made me do it.
Maybe it was the Alabama connection, as the live album was recorded in Mobile. Maybe it was seeing a CD/DVD package for $12.99. I’m sure the vast among of blues listening, writing, and coverage I’ve been doing here on the site played a part in it too.
He introduces them as the Robert Cray Band at the conclusion of “Our Last Time,” the first track performed on the new live album Cookin’ In Mobile, but it’s immediately clear that while they may be a quartet this is a two-man operation.
Cray has been a player on the blues scene for more than three decades now and for the past few Jim Pugh has been his right-hand man. You’ll see his name all over the liner notes – perhaps more times than even Cray – as he handles piano/keyboard/organ details and wrote and co-wrote several of the tracks the band performed.
He takes a backseat to Pugh on “Our Last Time,” content to play very little while allowing Pugh to solo first on piano before launching into an extended vamp on organ. The rhythm section gives the song a traditional undercoat as the drum and bass quickly lock into a patter familiar to blues fans. Pugh gets the first word but Cray saves a little room for himself at the end, slowly slicing a few tasty notes from his Stratocaster before bringing things to a smooth close.
I don’t know what I was expecting but “Our Last Time” was a nice appetizer for Cookin’ In Mobile and I found myself looking forward to the rest of the meal.