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Blues to Burn 

Robert Cray Band comes home to Oregon

Robert Cray has been making music for longer than most people have been listening to it, and at 64 he doesn't appear to be slowing down. A seasoned guitarist who has played with famed musicians such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and BB King, just to name a few, he leads his own band, which is set to play Bend's Tower Theatre April 5.

The Robert Cray Band has deeper ties to Oregon than just playing shows. This group formed together in Eugene while he was living there from 1974 to 1982. While there he had his first brush with fame during the filming of "Animal House," playing the part of an unknown bassist. Cray's days of being an unknown musician are over, and in 2011 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Cray has honed his talent since he was a teen, practicing when and where he could and finally getting his break into the music profession in the early '70s. In Eugene, the free-spirit movement at that time allowed for greater musical flexibility. "Because it was a college town, we played the music we wanted to play and they loved it," says Cray. He goes on to point out that having an audience eager for free expression, they were more forgiving in the things they didn't like, but were even more rewarding for the things they did.

The Robert Cray Band is made up of multiple musicians all adding their talents to create music greater than themselves. With multiple guitarists, drummers and even some on horn, this is a group that is in it for the music. Led by Cray, the performances that they create are something close to a spiritual experience. Seeing and hearing so many different individuals coming together to harmonize and play in sync is human evolution at its finest.

Cray lets the Source in on a little behind-the-scenes information, saying that, "We play with no set list." He clarifies that in the beginning they did, he wanted everyone in the beginning to get used to the music and to get comfortable with it, but once that became apparent he took it away. "Not having [a set list] opens up the scenes. We don't know all that is going to happen, but we are going to jump off that stage together." That kind of teamwork and coordination of the music is felt at the shows and the success is easily heard.

Cray knows what it's like to struggle as well as to succeed. He stresses the importance of being persistent with whatever the goal is. He has some advice for those who want what he has worked so hard to achieve. His words of encouragement are there for dreams large and small, whatever the desire is, whether to form a group, play a small venue, or even to produce an album. "Never quit following your dreams. Don't ever set a deadline for when 'it' has to happen."

The Robert Cray Band

Tower Theatre

835 NW Wall St, Bend

7:30 p.m., April 5

Reserved seating $38, $48, $58

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