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Cray keeps the blues fresh

Blues musician Robert Cray says he finds inspiration by "passively listening to the radio."

Blues musician Robert Cray says he finds inspiration by "passively listening to the radio."

Blues musician Robert Cray’s opposition to the war in Iraq is no secret.

In 2005, when opposition to the war in Iraq was heating up across the country, Cray was touring in support of his album “Twenty” and the title track sung from a soldier’s perspective that questioned the war in no uncertain terms (“They call this a war on terror/I see a lot of civilians dying/Mothers, sons, fathers and daughters/Not to mention some friends of mine”).

Last summer Cray toured with Kevin Moore, better known as Keb’ Mo’, who’s not joining him in Tucson on Wednesday. Keb’ Mo’ has his own show at the Rialto on June 12.

Cray, speaking by phone from his band’s tour stop near Philadelphia, talked about the continued response to his anti-war stance and what it’s like to play with the eclectic Keb’ Mo’.

Question: Are audiences still receptive to your anti-war songs more than five years into the war?

Answer: We play “Twenty” just about every night and the response has been more than what it had been. We’ve seen a growth in response to the song. It’s good to see. The response is basically an acknowledgement of the song, certain passages, and at the end maybe certain times they stand up and applaud. They stand up and they question it.

Blues musicians are often expected to work within a familiar framework. How do you explore new elements to stay fresh?

I don’t actively go out and purchase records for that sake but passively listening to the radio, something catches my ear and I listen to it. I get ideas just listening. I just sit down and write, and whatever comes to mind comes out. It’s great to be on this tour with Keb’ Mo’. He just does things his own way. Their band and our band, you get a huge variety of music in the two bands.

Have you worked with Keb’ Mo’ before?

We did a tour last year, and we recorded a single.

What have you gotten out of watching him perform?

I enjoy watching him and the approach that he takes and the way he puts structure for songs, it’s pretty cool. And also the fact that he plays finger-picking style on the guitar and slide guitar and incorporates that with more of an R&B kind of groove and a folk feel.

What will you be doing after the tour’s done?

The tour for the Cray Band will end in November at some point and then we’ll start working on a studio record.

What do you do to get ready for the studio?

I start at home first and maybe get together with some people. Then we bring the music in and let everybody get kind of familiar with it. It’s open for different ideas. On “Twenty” what we did the last time we sent one another the material that each other had written and we got to the studio and we put it together on charts and we started recording. Some of the songs we got in one take, others took two or three takes.



What: Robert Cray in concert

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

Price: $30-$40

Info: 740-1000, www.rialtotheatre.com

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