CA: Robert Cray recording at Royal Studios with Hi Rhythm
Over the past few years, a steady roll call of veteran artists — Paul Rodgers, Melissa Etheridge, Boz Scaggs and, most recently, the Euthymics’ Dave Stewart among them — have beaten a path to South Memphis’ Royal Studios to soak in the atmosphere at the historic home of Hi Records and to tap the talents of the resident session players, including members of the famed Hi Rhythm section.
This week, Grammy-winning blues-rocker Robert Cray followed suit, starting work on a new album with producer/drummer Steve Jordan, a longtime Royal habitué (who also produced the Scaggs sessions).
The as-yet-untitled record will be billed as Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm. Cray and Jordan have spent the week in the studio tracking with Hi Rhythm members Rev. Charles Hodges, Leroy “Flick” Hodges and Archie “Hubbie” Turner.
Studio owner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell has been helping engineer the sessions, and he notes that Cray’s association with the studio dates back two decades, to when Royal/Hi patriarch Willie “Pops” Mitchell provided some horn arrangements and material for Cray’s 1999 album, “Take Your Shoes Off.”
For the new record, Cray is cutting a mix of originals and Hi-associated covers (including at least one O.V. Wright chestnut). According to Mitchell, Cray is also working up some songs by Southern swamp-rock master Tony Joe White, who is also supposed swing by Royal to guest on the album.
Mitchell notes that Cray’s well-earned reputation as a six-string blues ace has overshadowed his considerable gifts as a soul singer. “He’s known for being this bad-ass guitar player, but having him in the studio, his vocals are blowing my mind,” says Mitchell. “His style and approach, just the total sound of his voice — it has that classic quality you just don’t hear any more in R&B. Everybody’s very excited to be cutting with him.”
Cray and Jordan plan on finishing basic tracks over the weekend, with a return for overdubs likely after the holidays. The record is slated for a late spring 2017 release on the Jay-Vee label, owned and operated by Jordan and his wife, Meegan Voss.