Robert Cray is one of the first blues artists I was introduced to, and I've been a fan ever since. So excitedly, we headed off to see him at Knuckleheads in Kansas City last Friday evening. He didn't disappoint either, delivering a sixteen-song set that started at 8:10 PM and wrapped up just before 10:00 PM CDT.

This concert was a little different for me in that while I consider myself a fan, I have to admit I haven't done a great job keeping up with his career. In many respects, seeing Mr. Cray play almost 36 years to the day of seeing him play at Taste of Chicago was like going in to see a brand-new artist.

Rob Creighton / Townsquare Media
Rob Creighton / Townsquare Media
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I haven't kept up with all the music he's recorded since the late 80s and early 90s. Why? I've been on my musical journey, which in the last 36 years has included periods where I didn't follow music at all; I was fine just listening to what came out of my radio speakers, and at times where I didn't so much care about the music I liked, but what hits my radio audience would like to hear.

Thanks to my record collecting and the artists I've been exposed to over the past few years, I've become more interested in the blues, whether it's James from Jammin' Nuggets Music sending out the occasional blues record as a Nugget of the Month or suggesting a particular record. Or the blues standards that are part of Samantha Fish's repertoire. I've learned more about the genre in the past few years than I did as a kid.

Rob Creighton / Townsquare Media
Rob Creighton / Townsquare Media
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Which brings me to Friday night's Robert Cray show at Knuckleheads.

I was familiar with two of the 16 songs he played: "Bad Influence," the title track from the record released before "Strong Persuader," and the radio hit from "Strong Persuader," "Right Next Door (Because of Me)." The song I felt was conspicuously missing was the other hit from "Strong Persuader," "Smoking Gun." (The setlist from Knuckleheads is here.)

Not being familiar with much of his music wasn't a problem for me. I love Mr. Cray's guitar playing, which got me to pay for the tickets, followed by his smooth vocals. Cray's guitar sound is crisp and clean, which my ears love. It's similar to Clapton's or B.B. King's guitar sound.

There's not a smoother blues singer out there, either. Upon writing the review for Cray's "Strong Persuader" back in the 1980s, John Pareles of Rolling Stone wrote this about Cray's music, "A version of blues and soul that doesn't come from any one region, building an idiom for songs that tell with conversational directness the stories of ordinary folks."

Cray still has a soulful voice and perhaps has the smoothest voice you'll find singing the blues these days. His lyrics still employ that conversational directness Pareles wrote about back in the 80s, and Cray's music still tells the stories of ordinary people who could be your neighbor or even you.

Rob Creighton / Townsquare Media
Rob Creighton / Townsquare Media
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Standout tracks for me on Friday night included "Fix This," "I Don't Care," "Bad Influence," "Hot," "Right Next Door (Because of Me)," and the final song of the encore "Time Makes Two."

I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mr. Cray's latest album, 2020's "That's What I Heard," which I picked up at the show.

If you want a great evening of soulful storytelling about people just like you and me, along with some excellent guitar playing, see The Robert Cray Band. You won't be disappointed.

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