Bobby G's 'PhD in the Blues'
PhD IN THE BLUES
Bobby G. (Third Street Cigar Records)
Toledo-area blues singer Robert Lee Gray, better known by the stage name Bobby G, swings, sways, growls, soothes, and packs another solid punch with his sweet-and-soulful baritone voice on this second album of sweat-drenched, gritty material that really fits his character and style.
The disc showcases love and respect for the 74-year-old Bobby G from several high-profile local musicians who together call themselves the Third Street Cigar Blues Band, as well as that of national recording artist Johnny Rawls, a blues guitarist-vocalist composer and producer who has embraced Toledo in a big way.
Rawls, when he came to the Toledo School for the Arts studio for several days to help record two bands in late 2016, had a big hand in getting Bobby G’s first album with Curtis Grant and the Midnight Rockers recorded, writing most of the songs for it and appearing as one of the backup musicians.
On this album, Rawls wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs, too, with composer Linda Francis.
He reappears as a special guest for background vocals, rhythm guitar, and vocals.
Bobby G is performing with Rawls, John Primer, and Jeff Jensen at the Blues on the Water festival at Promenade Park on Aug. 4, with Rawls performing at a post-festival show at the Oliver House that night.
The magic between Rawls and his friend, producer John Henry of Waterville’s Third Street Cigars and co-founder of the Black Swamp Blues Society, helped make Bobby G’s first album, Still Standing, so successful it broke into the Top 25 on the Living Blues charts and was a hit over in Europe. The momentum carries over to the new disc as Bobby G performs with Ramona Collins and other area musicians — including guitarist Larry “Entertainment” Gold and Johnny “HiFi” Newmark — as well as Toledo-area trumpeter Ric Wolkins, saxophonist Mark Lemle, and others.
One of the highlights is the title track, in which Bobby G sings about his hard-scrabble roots in tiny Winterville, Miss., and how — from the cotton fields of the Deep South — he got to Toledo by singing the blues in the early 1960s.
PhD in the Blues was recorded in the Maumee-based Stone Soup studio owned by Eric Sills, which has done other sharp recordings of local musicians. It’s another fine homegrown product, with another big assist from Rawls. Photos for the album were taken by Toledo’s John Rockwood at the Oliver House.
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