Robert Cray takes a soulful stroll with Hi Rhythm section

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Robert Cray teams up with the Hi Records rhythm section for a Memphis stroll of soulful sounds and evocative songs.

Working with drummer and producer Steve Jordan at that city’s Royal Studios with musicians who backed Al Green, Ann Peebles and others there, Cray soaks up the character of the room for a set led by his expressive vocals and classy guitar licks.

“Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm” opens with a cover of “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” from Bill Withers, as the steady sparkles of Jordan’s hi-hat immediately harken back to the famous Hi sound created under the late Willie Mitchell’s tutelage and represented here by the Rev. Charles Hodges (organ, piano), bassist Leroy Hodges and Archie Turner on keyboards.

Tony Joe White adds guitar and harmonica to a few of his own compositions — “Aspen, Colorado” is a passionate burner in the mold of his own classic “Rainy Night in Georgia,” while “Don’t Steal My Love” is deeply funky near-psychedelia.

Cray only takes three writing credits on the album but makes some wonderful and distinctive choices on the rest.