After 40 years of playing under the radar, Rust Belt bluesman Larry McCray finally gets his big break. On Blues Without You, McCray receives production magic from Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith for Joe’s Keeping the Blues Alive record label. The result is McCray’s finest record, reflecting his talent, skill, and artistic sincerity.
Blues Without You cooks, fusing McCray’s love of southern R&B and hard-hitting Midwestern blues. While McCray’s playing is masterful, his vocal performances will floor everyone. Guest performances include blues slide queen Joanna Connor, Warren Haynes, keyboardist Reese Wynans, and Bonamassa.
The semi-autobiographical “Arkansas” kicks things off with a Bo Diddley beat, ballsy lead-guitar breaks, and a flawless horn section. McCray plays guitar like a champ, while Bonamassa’s clear production style uplifts killer vocalizations. “Breaking News” takes the band uptown with slick urban grooves offset by McCray’s earthy attack, while the mid-tempo shuffle “Roadhouse Blues” unleashes McCray’s inner Albert King.
McCray join forces with Warren Haynes on the metaphorical ballad “Down To The Bottom.” Sparse acoustic guitar builds to a string section, lush backing vocals, and excellent slide work from Haynes. Bonamassa and Connor perform at the highest levels of blues artistry, but McCray is blistering, fierce, and unstoppable.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.