To the general public, singer-guitarist Robert Cray is synonymous with the blues. But over the course of his 20-year career, he's had to put up with flak from purists who think his music is too pop-oriented and conventional. You gotta think Cray doesn't mind. He's had every album since 1986's Strong Persuader
nominated for a Grammy in the Best Contemporary Blues category. He won Grammys for Strong Persuader
, its follow-up, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
, and 1999's Take Your Shoes Off
. He also snagged one for Showdown!,
collaboration with the late Albert Collins and the late Johnny Copeland. And despite pissing off the purists, he's gotten respect from his peers and managed to record with John Lee Hooker and tour and record with Eric Clapton. Cray combines urban blues and Memphis soul, but with his last few releases, his music has taken a more soulful turn. Thankfully, he's also stopped harping on the infidelity themes that were so much a part of his earlier albums. Seven of the 12 songs on Shoulda Been Home
are Cray originals, two were written by keyboardist Jim Pugh, and three are covers of modern blues standards. For a guy who draws sneers for sounding far too smooth to be considered part of a genre that thrives on grit and gravel, Cray continues to do more than all right for himself.