Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***

THE ROBERT CRAY BAND
Twenty
Sanctuary

Not their twentieth album, only their fourteenth, and fresh as ever for those who'll listen up

Established blues-circuit stars who've been an unchanged unit since 1990, the Robert Cray Band have suffered the fate of so many committed formalists before them: repeating themselves. But even if nobody cares beyond the equally committed fan base their skills have earned them, they refuse to betray their compulsion to put an extra twist on their smooth, smoky evocations of love's pain. The killer on this subtle collection is the romantically bereft stop-smoking song "My Last Regret," pronounced by Cray and written by keyboardist/co-producer Jim Pugh to double as "my last cigarette." The title tune's title honors the age its protagonist dies at--in Iraq. And though "I'm Walkin'" is about what you'd figure, you won't hear many veterans "strollin' out the door" with such a kick.

Blender, Aug. 2005