Poised to become a genre-shaping staple early in his career performing alongside the greats B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Albert King and more, rustbelt singer and guitarist Larry McCray’s life has imitated the rags-to-riches stories of the blues throughout his musical career.
Eager to demonstrate his position as a legend, McCray re-emerges with his first album in seven years Blues Without You, produced by blues-rock titan Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, on Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive Records (KTBA Records).
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“Albert King, Albert Collins and B.B. King really had the most influence on me because, in my mind, they were the greatest of their generation at playing the blues,” shares McCray. “And it took them their whole careers to achieve minor milestones in the business. So, if it took the greatest players their entire career to make it, who am I to complain about having to walk in their footsteps?
“I feel totally reborn, with a whole new career, and I’m optimistic about what the future holds,” he adds. “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 laughs.
Featuring performances from Bonamassa, Warren Haynes, Joanna Connor and Reese Wynans, McCray’s 12-song collection has garnered critical acclaim from Guitar Techniques Magazine, dubbing Blues Without You as “exquisite” and the tracks “run the gamut of what many blues fans want: great songs, rich grooves, tight band interplay and stingingly singing guitar solos,” while Blues Rock Review praises it as “the record of a lifetime and the best project of his career.”
Alongside today’s release, the Arkansas-native debuts the official music video for Down To The Bottom featuring Warren Haynes, described by Blues Rock Review as “a musical undertaking where Larry discusses the challenges he’s been through during his life and career.”
“Down To The Bottomis an instant Larry McCray classic,” says UK music blog Fabrications.
Labelled an “old-school, perfectly-arranged soul” song by Guitar World,Breaking News is “shaped by the seemingly endless crises that dominate the news from day to day,” while lead single Arkansas is “slick, vibrant and a little funky-y, too – an impressive statement of intent. McCray sounds reinvigorated.”
Title trackBlues Without You (For Paul) is a moving tribute to McCray’s manager of over three decades Paul Koch, who passed away suddenly last year. “Blues Without You is a career defining song, that could arguably rival The Thrill is Gone or other Blues classics. The pure emotion captured in this song is something many artists aspire to, but few achieve,” boasts Blues Rock Review, also naming it a “career-defining” track that “should become an instant classic in the blues genre.”
“Larry McCray is a legend,” praises producer Bonamassa. “We have known that for 30 years. He is the last of the great blues shouters from the rust belt. It’s now up to the world to rediscover him. He has been here all along.”
“I met Joe when he was in his early 20s, and I met Josh when he was about 13 out on the road touring,” shares McCray. “My first impression of both is that they would do exactly what they did by becoming the alpha figures in the pack among all the other guitar players out there. I never thought that either one of them was impressed with anything that I played because I am old school.
“I was really surprised when I found out that they wanted to work with me. It was very difficult at times. Sometimes I even felt very self-conscious having to play before someone I respected to this level musically,” he continues. “But it felt good to be working with old friends that I knew and whose opinions I valued and trusted so much.”
McCray was named the Orville H. Gibson (in honour of the vaunted Gibson Guitar founder) Male Blues Guitarist of the Year in 2000, won the Top Guitarist prize in the International Blues Matters 2014 writer’s poll and was awarded the “Sunshine” Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence in 2015. Over the years, Larry has performed and toured with such blues greats as BB King, Buddy Guy, Albert King, John Mayall, Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, Keb’ Mo’, Jimmie Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Joe Bonamassa, as well as rock legends the Allman Brothers, Phil Lesh, Jonny Lang, Joe Walsh, Levon Helm, Chris Robinson, Dickey Betts, and countless others.
Blues Without You – Track List
2. Without Love It Doesn’t Matter
3. Good Die Young
4. Down To The Bottom feat. Warren Haynes
5. Breaking News
6. Roadhouse Blues
7. Drinkin’ Liquor And Chasin’ Women feat. Joanna Connor
8. Blues Without You (For Paul)
9. Mr. Easy feat. Joe Bonamassa
10. No More Crying
11. Don’t Put Your Dreams To Bed
12. I Play The Blues