Larry McCray: The \'Mayor\' of the Blues Releases His first New Studio CD in Six Years

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 634   By: Robert E Martin

22nd March, 2007     0

You would have to be buried under a rock to have not heard the name Larry McCray. Now in his third decade as a brilliant guitarist, masterful songwriter, and distinctive exponent of the 'Rockin' Blues', Larry is poised to release his first new CD of original studio material in six years, and will be returning to the Mid-Michigan area as part of The Bay City Blues Series on Saturday, March 31st with special guests Three Penny Revue at Bay City's State Theatre.

Tentatively titled Wrong, the 12 new tracks on the CD mostly focus on Roots & RB fundamentals. "All the songs came together pretty well," reflects Larry. "I think my problem earlier in my career was always trying to accomplish or achieve what other people had envisioned for me.

Having a go with that, I started remembering what got me started and where my appreciation was in the beginning, so I'm focusing on playing funky bluesy rocking rhythms, with a couple ballads thrown in. Mainly, I'm trying to hold true to my roots and be what I am instead of being what somebody thinks I need to be."

Immediately, one senses a more organic tone and approach in Larry's music, especially in terms of guitar tone. "I think I might have changed my tone up a tad," he admits, "and its not as driven as before, but I'm trying to think in terms of quality and taste. Quantity is not always the best thing. When you hear the new material, you recognize it as being not that far off from what my other projects were, but I think my sound is more natural now, not contrived."

"It's not all blues, and it's not necessarily a radio target CD. Some of the stronger songs that come to mind are, I Don't Need No Woman Like That (My Billfold Ain't that Fat), Get Your Blues On, and Big black Hole (You Don't make me Happy No mo').  I think people that enjoy the blues are going to enjoy this record."

As we sip a beer at The Hamilton St. Pub, Larry's old haunting ground when he started performing with The McCray Brothers Blues Band back in the early '80s, I ask Larry about his current outlook on music.

"I'm mostly amazed at how fast time passes," states Larry. "I remember like yesterday 18 years ago taking on the commitment to give full time musicianship a shot. That was a crossroads for me. From then until now a lot of things have transpired, but all in all, I feel I reach my milestones by being myself."

"In my formative years back then, without any experience, any advice was good advice as far as I was concerned. Until you test the waters and see what people will or won't accept, you never know. Major success doesn't always rest on individual talent. A lot of it is timing and if its' your time, when it comes around, nobody is able to take it from you."

Having paid his dues and earned an international reputation, is there any one particular colleague that's inspired Larry over the years?

"One of my close friends back in the day was Albert Collins, back when he was still alive. We signed around the same time and he would always tell me, 'Do not try to be or sound like nobody else. Do your thing, Larry."

Larry's current line-up on the new studio CD consists of brother Steve McCray on drums, Tony V (who's also played in Buddy Guy's band), and bassist Noel Neal.

As for songwriting, has it gotten easier for Larry as he's become more seasoned? "I think its gets easier to tell your story as an individual. I'm just trying to weed out everything that doesn't apply to me. We know what we can do, so you've got to discard all the stuff that doesn't apply and focus double hard on the things & talents we do have. Too many people worry about what they don't have. I feel at peace with the music and am not trying to force myself on anyone. If people don't like what I do, I'm sorry; if they do, then right on, take two!"

When asked about his life on the road & touring schedule, Larry admits it has its ups & downs. "To me it's like punching a time clock. If I don't have somewhere to go every week, something is wrong. We do extended tours, but I don't like being away from home so long, because I've got a six-year old son. But I try and be consistent and work Wednesday through Sunday, so I can be home on Monday & Tuesday."

"A lot of stuff is happening. We've got sponsors pushing the label, Magnolia Records, and will put some stuff out with other artists. Plus I'm going to Russia on tour and have never been there. I talked with Larry Garner and a couple other guys that have been there and they said it's a beautiful time."

Larry's new CD can be purchased at his shows and online at LarryMcCrayBand.com.
                                         
Tickets for Larry McCray & Three Penny Revue can be purchased by calling 892-2660 or going to StateTheatreBayCity.com The show starts at 8 PM, with doors opening at 7 PM. Beer & wine will be available throughout the show.

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