The Road to Escondido
J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
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Eric Clapton's successful '05 Cream reunion spurred the rock legend to revisit a less-heralded, if more personally inspiring muse from the musician's past, Oklahoma country-blues savant J. J. Cale. While Cale's ambling, laid-back ethos became a touchstone of Clapton's early solo career via hit covers of "Cocaine" and "After Midnight," this marks the first true collaboration between the laid back Okie blues man and the English guitar god he's so deeply influenced. The album's billing is more than alphabetical: 11 of the tracks are distinctive Cale originals while the acoustic folk of Clapton's "Three Little Girls" mines familiar pop territory, guest John Mayer contributes the jaded "Hard to Thrill" and the veteran duo turn in a languorously winning cover of "Sporting Life Blues." The signature Cale/Clapton sound makes "Danger" and the single "Ride the River" feel like familiar old friends, while the shuffling "Missing Person" and "When the War is Over" evoke even deeper American roots. Clapton's ever lyrical, restrained fretwork here is a stark contrast to his fiery Cream grandstanding, underscoring the truly collaborative musical partnership at the heart of one Clapton's warmest, most satisfying modern releases.
Excellent and long overdue
Clapton's long time respect for JJ Cale is finally being documented in this lastest release. JJ has been a writing hits for years and watching bands like Skynyrd and Clapton take his music to the masses. Personally I prefer Cale's original versions and with Cale getting the majority of the writing credits on this CD you can easily hear the influence of the music that Clapton has been putting out for years. The musicianship as with most of Clapton's releases is exceptional with subtle but outstanding contributions from Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Taj Mahal, Doyle Bramhall II, Albert Lee, Nathan East, Willie Weeks and Steve Jordan. Particularly special is the involvement of the late Billy Preston, who donated his classic keyboard talents throughout the album. If I had three thumbs they'd all be pointing up right now !
Esondido is a suburb of San Diego, and like this album, Escondido lives just on the edges of the big city; somewhere on the periphery of mainstream. Just the reason you need to pick up this latest Clapton song catalog! JJ Cale is basically Eric's musical brother, so the two have woven together songs that ebb and flow from country-blues to straight rock, and they do so wonderfully. Remember "After Midnight" and " Cocaine?" Cale wrote those songs and Clapton played them, bless his soul, so how can this creation be bad? The Road to Escondido is a fine example of old-guy blues, soft and loose, yet sonically tight.
It's about time guys
A while back, I was reading a brief interview with Eric Clapton, and he was asked a question similar to, " If you could come back as another musician, who would it be?" His answer was "J.J. Cale", and he offered no further explanation. Now I know why! Cale often sings and plays his guitar in an understated fashion however you wish he would let it rip sometimes, but he never does, and he doesn't need to. Clapton adds his magic to this disc, but his style seems to emulate Cale as much as Cale maintains his. These two have an individual style that just plain works well as one, and for a musician and the sheer joy of playing together, these guys are having fun and it shows. Walk, no, run out and get the disc and enjoy the subtle mastery of voice, stratocaster, and that contraption that Cale invented that he calls a 'guitar'.
Born: March 30, 1945 in Ripley, Surrey, England
Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s
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