After years of admiring each other's musical masterworks and Clapton covers of Cale songs such as "After Midnight" and "Cocaine," guitar greats J.J. Cale
and Eric Clapton
have teamed up for the first time to create an original album together, The Road To Escondido
. The 14 track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California. The resulting music defies being labeled into any one category, but instead finds influence across the spectrum of blues, rock, country and folk. A hybrid sound that is unique musically, while still bearing the signature styles of Cale and Clapton recognized by fans around the world. The songs are warm and rich, with deep flowing rhythms, yet use an economy of words to express much.
In a true collaboration, Cale and Clapton jointly produced and recorded the album, each playing and singing on the tracks. Cale wrote 11 of the songs, Clapton wrote "Three Little Girls," John Mayer
wrote "Hard To Thrill" and the duo cover the blues classic "Sporting Life Blues." J.J. Cale's touring band accompanies them on the album as well as guest musicians including, Taj Mahal
, John Mayer, Derek Trucks
, Doyle Bramhall II
, Albert Lee, Nathan East
, Willie Weeks and Steve Jordan
. Particularly special is the involvement of Billy Preston
, who donated his classic keyboard talents throughout the album. The album is dedicated to Preston and Clapton's late friend Brian Roylance.
"Eric and I have known each other for a long time and it was a great experience to finally make a record together – he's a great musician and it was a pleasure to work so closely on this project with him," said J.J. Cale.
"This was the realization of what may have been my last ambition, to work with the man who's music has inspired me for as long as I can remember, there are not enough words for me to describe what he represents to me, musically and personally, and anyway I wouldn't want to embarrass him by going overboard, for he is a truly humble man.....I think it's enough to say that we had fun, made a great record, and I for one already want to make another," said Eric Clapton.
Clapton has often said that he has tried to achieve the J.J. Cale sound and has credited Cale with singular influence over his style as a solo artist. Mojo Magazine asked Clapton in 2000 which other musician he would most like to be, his response was quick: "I don't model myself on him but I like J.J. Cale, his philosophy, writing skills, musicianship. He's a fine, superior musician, one of the masters of the last three decades of music."
J.J. Cale is known for being reclusive. He lets his music speak for itself and by his own choice has not become famous in the conventional terms of the word. Instead, preferring to shun the spotlight for a more simple existence based on his musical creations. Ironically, doing just that, and focusing on his music, has turned him into a guitar legend over the past four decades. The depth of his influence can be felt in artists such as Clapton and Mark Knopfler
, but the sheer breadth of his appeal is made clear by the diverse group of artists who have covered his songs from Johnny Cash
, Lynyrd Skynyrd
, and The Allman Brothers
to Bryan Ferry
, Deep Purple
and more recently jam bands like Widespread Panic
Cale grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and cites Chet Atkins
, Les Paul
and Chuck Berry
as some of his earliest influences. He is often quoted as saying, "In trying to imitate them, I missed it. And I came up with my own kinda thing." And so, Cale began playing the local Tulsa club scene in the early 1950's surrounded by other natives such as David Gates
) and Leon Russell
. After moving to Los Angeles in the mid-60's, he recorded the song "After Midnight."
Already an accomplished guitarist with bands such as the Yardbirds
and Blind Faith
, Clapton ventured to a solo career with the release of his 1970 self-titled Eric Clapton album. Mutual friend Delaney Bramlett had given Clapton a copy of Cale's song "After Midnight." Clapton decided to cover the song and it was the first single from the album. The song became a chart-topping success. Clapton was quick to offer praise for Cale's work while promoting the album. Cale had been told of the cover but has said that he didn't pay much attention until the song came on the radio in Tulsa.
Years later, in April 1976, Cale was performing at London's Hammersmith Odeon in support of his Troubadour album release. Clapton sat in on the performance and later during that trip surprised Cale in the studio with a version of "Cocaine" that would appear on his 1977 Slowhand
release. Again becoming a chart-topping success.
In the years to follow, the two would occasionally cross paths, but would largely carry on with their respective musical careers. Until 2004 when Clapton was organizing a Dallas-based guitar festival called Crossroads. The 3-day festival featured the world's most elite guitarists. Clapton invited Cale to perform at the festival and Cale agreed to attend. In turn, Cale invited Clapton on-stage for the set and Clapton gladly joined, unannounced, for the entire set as a member of Cale's band. The set was a highlight of the performances from the festival.
Crossroads gave Clapton an opportunity to ask Cale to consider producing an upcoming album for him. If Clapton had been seeking to replicate the trademark Cale sound, having him as producer on an album would surely achieve that unique musical quality. As the two worked on the project, creative ideas took flight and they decided to take the project further formulating a true co-produced album. The Road To Escondido
marks the first full-length album the two have created together.
Cale's entire 40-plus year career has produced only 13 albums. But most critics agree that each effort is well worth the wait. Lauded by his peers and completely unfazed by musical fads, J.J. Cale is an American icon, a craftsman like no other.
Clapton's career, also spanning more than 40 years, has resulted in 18 Grammy Awards and the distinct honor of being the only triple inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
"The Road To Escondido" will be released on November 7.
Streaming audio: "Ride the River
Find lots more about Eric Clapton here on Starpulse
Find lots more about J.J. Cale here on Starpulse
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