Sunday, November 30, 2014

Robert Cray Band, "Smoking Gun" (1987)

March 21, 1987, #22

I am a fan of Robert Cray and his one and only hit is no exception, not least in that it comes from probably my favorite album by him, Strong Persuader. I like to think of that album, and Cray more generally, as one analog to the Beatles' work of the mid-'60s in terms of the broad and varied approach taken to love and relationship song to song, which I informally dubbed the puppy love song project. Call Robert Cray, especially on Strong Persuader, the all grown up love song project. As with the Beatles, the scope is appreciated only across the songs, as each one is more or less a unique point unto itself. For example, in "Right Next Door (Because of Me)," the singer is the outside disrupting agent in a married couple, who live in the next apartment, from which he can hear them fighting. The singer has been sleeping with the woman. He hears the man accusing her of being unfaithful. He listens to the fight and fills in the circumstances for us with a blend of regret and satisfaction. He takes no action. In the #22 hit "Smoking Gun," by contrast, the singer is the cuckold realizing he is in an adulterous marriage. In the classic spectrum of grief, denial is giving way to anger, though by and large it is still just simmering anxiety. But the singer seems to know if he presses the issue now he's liable to catch her with "that well-known smoking gun." I like the way the lyric traffics in one of the most difficult aspects of these situations—the images one conjures (or, God help us, sees). The singer is not yet the abject figure of "I Guess I Showed Her," a bruised cuckold now living in a motel (to make another comparison from the Strong Persuader album). But he's surely on his way, though the guitar playing suggests the person in this song may have the greater portion of rage about him.

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