Photo by James L. Bass

The blues guitarist celebrates 40 years in the biz with a jam-packed box set that blends new and old live recordings and video interviews.

In a career that has spanned more than four decades, Robert Cray has played with virtually all the guitar giants: Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, and Keith Richards. And in the process, the Strat-wielding bluesman himself became a giant, as is documented in the video portion of his new release, 4 Nights of 40 Years Live. The double CD and DVD box set features new live recordings and archival footage that celebrates Cray’s storied journey, and we learn how he blended his gospel roots, a love of Hendrix, and a deep appreciation of the Beatles and their songcraft into his own soulful blues-rock fusion.

The first CD offers 13 fresh, live tracks that Cray recently recorded during four shows in the L.A. area with his current band of seasoned players: longtime bassist Richard Cousins, keyboardist Dover Weinberg (who was in Cray's first band), and drummer Les Falconer (O’Jays, Keb ’Mo).

Cray’s stinging guitar is in the moment, singular, and timeless. Culled from an impressive catalogue of 20 releases, the song selections include rockers “Bad Influence” and “Right Next Door (Because of Me),” the soul-searing “Love Gone to Waste,” and “These Things”—a bluesy ballad that features one of Cray’s mind-blowing solos on his signature model Fender Strat.

The live CD is the fourth Cray Band release produced by Steve Jordan (John Mayer Trio), who plays drums on several cuts. Other guest musicians include vocalist Kim Wilson, harmonica player Lee Oskar, tenor saxophonist Trevor Lawrence, trumpeter Steve Madaio, and saxophonist Tom Scott.

A bonus CD looks back at Cray’s early career and includes a cut from the 1982 San Francisco Blues Festival, as well as several songs (“Smoking Gun” and “Too Many Cooks”) from Cray's ’80s repertoire.

Finally, the DVD blends video footage of the live performances, while the likes of Clapton, Richards, Guy, Bonnie Raitt, and Jimmie Vaughan share their feelings about the man and his music.

4 Nights of 40 Years Live will be released August 28 by Mascot Label Group in a variety of formats: two LPs with digital download card, two CDs + DVD, Blu-Ray + two CDs, and digitally.

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