If you read Eric Clapton’s recent autobiography, you know he is very content with his life and were he stands musically. This album conveys that same feeling – laid-back and intimate – though there are some musical surprises.
Among the players on the record are the rhythm section of Jim Keltner on drums, Willie Weeks on bass, and co-producer Doyle Bramhall II on guitar. Guests included Derek Trucks, Steve Winwood, J.J. Cale, Allen Toussaint, and Wynton Marsalis – the last two bring a jazz mentality to the proceedings.
The Fats Waller classic “My Very Good Friend the Milkman” is a rollicking New Orleans ramble. That city is also responsible for “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful.” Marsalis is featured on trumpet solos on both cuts. The mellow country-influenced rock that’s been a staple of Clapton’s music since the ’70s makes several appearances, including on a cover of Little Son Jackson’s, “Traveling Alone” and J.J. Cale’s menacing “River Runs Deep.” The blues are here, too; “Can’t Hold Out Much Longer” is Chicago-blues heaven with a nasty solo and fine harp.
The closer, “Autumn Leaves,” is the real surprise. The standard gets a quiet, breathy vocal from Clapton and has two guitar solos – the first a quiet nylon-string affair, the second a jazzy electric bit. The song’s intimate take ref lects the feel of the album as a whole.
Clapton’s first studio work in almost six years, this is not a guitarist’s record; rather, it’s carried by the songs and Clapton’s versatile vocals. Listeners who can put away their “guitar god” notions and give it an honest listen will be rewarded.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.