It makes little sense to keep arguing whether Robert Cray is a blues artist. The man has been playing professionally since 1974. Time Will Tell is his 13th album, not counting the reissues and greatest hits. The best compliment you can give the guy is that he's been consistent while not becoming redundant.
Cray's latest, like most of his recent releases, contains subtle changes in the band's familiar rock and soul that won't scare away longtime fans. Two songs have lush string arrangements. Electric sitar spices "Up in the Sky." Sly & the Family Stone alumni Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson lend horns on "Your Pal." Latin-rock rhythms punctuate "Distant Shore." And while Cray still mines the dark side of love -- soured relationships and tawdry sex -- he switches gears on a few numbers. "Survivor" and "Distant Shore" are condemnations of war (one war, specifically). "Up in the Sky" deals with -- gasp -- growing old. Time Will Tell isn't a masterpiece. It's no Strong Persuader or Sweet Potato Pie. But, like its 12 predecessors, it's got plenty to like.