J.J. Cale (1938-2013) was one of the key "roots" music composers of the 1970s, an architect of the super-laidback Tulsa Sound which fused mellow funk and soul with folksy, blues-suffused rock. Cale had modest success himself as a chart artist, but is probably best remembered as a songwriter championed by rock star Eric Clapton, who took "Cocaine" and "After Midnight" to the top of the charts, among many J.J. Cale songs he recorded. Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd also popularized Cale's work, notably with their version of "They Call Me The Breeze." Here's a quick look at his work...
J.J. Cale "Naturally" (Shelter, 1972)
The late Oklahoma City songwriter J.J. Cale helped develop an eclectic, roots-oriented style called "the Tulsa Sound," which took off in the late 1960s and early '70s, and found its way into the national charts by way of Cale's pal Eric Clapton, and onto freeform FM radio through Cale's own albums. This solo debut typified Cale's sound: super laid-back, dipping into blues, jazz-standards and country, mixing it all together with casual ease and lazy beauty. It opens with his lanky, twangy version of "They Call Me The Breeze" and also includes a spacy "After Midnight" that stands in sharp contrast to Clapton's more aggressive (and more profitable) cover version. Sweet stuff, with a weird-but-not-too-weird vibe that will feel comfy and familiar to many fans. Recommended!
J.J. Cale "Really" (Shelter, 1973)
J.J. Cale "Okie" (Shelter, 1974)
J.J. Cale "Troubadour" (Shelter, 1976)
J.J. Cale "5" (MCA, 1979)
J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton "The Road To Escondido" (Universal South, 2006)
Although Oklahoman songwriter J.J. Cale helped shape Eric Clapton's country-tinged, rootsy blues sound and provided him with some of his biggest hits of the early 1970s, the two old coots never made a record together... until now. The big question is: what were they waiting for? Escondido finds Cale still in fine form, and Clapton positively revitalized while gliding through this assertively good-natured, slick-but-substantial pop-blues outing. The old Cale formula -- half dusty barroom ballad, half misplaced swamp boogie -- is as smoky and alluring as ever, a cheerfully sleepy, seductive, world-weary style, with gauzy songs that suck you in like warm, comfy quicksand. Clapton is a perfect foil for Cale's laidback style, and the two move together with the ease and familarity of two old friends. It also helps that they've actually attained the age and wisdom that they earlier pretended to possess -- old bluesmen often ring truer than young hotshots who think they've seen it all. The more rocking, obviously "pop" songs come frontloaded at the start -- "Danger," "Missing Person" -- amorphous tunes that are really more mellow, lazy grooves than proper songs. The pace slows more for "When This War Is Over," an understated antiwar protest that speaks volumes in its plainspoken directness... It's clearly about the Iraq fiasco, but it may prove to have legs of its own, as time goes on and more wars come. Maturity is a constant theme on this album: on "It's Easy," the geezers coach a young listener in the arts of seduction; "Hard To Thrill" is an anthem of middle-aged ennui, and on "Three Little Girls," Clapton croons the joys of fatherhood. While the sound of this disc may feel too slick or mainstream for some roots music fans, the album still has a strong appeal. Certainly for fans of Clapton and Cale, it's a cause for major celebration -- this is a wonderful return to form for two roots-blues legends... Definitely worth checking out!
Hick Music Index