1986's "Strong Persuader" was a milestone both for Robert Cray and blues in the '80s. It earned Cray, a veteran of the Pacific Northwest blues scene, both his first solo Grammy and Top 30 hit ("Smoking Gun") along with a lift out of the blues ghetto which he'd been excelling in during recent years. As for the blues themselves, Cray infused fresh blood into a genre that had been limping along in that particular decade. With a smooth singing style to go with an equally recognizable guitar tone, Cray developed a sound that owed as much to soul stylist O.V. Wright as it did to Texas guitarist Albert Collins (with whom Cray had won a Grammy along with Johnny Copeland the prior year). The use of the Memphis Horns strengthened the soul connection on songs such as the punchy "Nothing But A Woman" and the chugging effervescence of "Guess I Showed Her." Of course, Cray's heart lay in the blues and when he wasn't lamenting the woes of infidelity in "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)" and a bad break-up in "Still Around," his guitar playing smoldered throughout the forlorn "New Blood."
"Strong Persuader" won a 1988 Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.