The Best Tribute to Cale: The Road to Escondido

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Eric Clapton and the late J.J. Cale had a long running friendship and Clapton had covered many of Cale’s tunes, often with good success.  Many listeners think “Cocaine” and “After Midnight” are Clapton’s, though Clapton has always been quick to point out Cale’s influence and talent.  Clapton’s latest show of kinship is The Breeze, An Appreciation of JJ Cale, a sort of Cale greatest hits performed by Clapton and a who’s-who of other talent.Clapton and Cale collaborated on an album together, though, back in 2006, The Road to Escondido, and that may be the best tribute to their shared sound and love of music.

The Gathering

While The Breeze is quite a gathering of talent (Tom, Petty, Mark Knopfler, Albert Lee, Willie Nelson and many others), The Road to Escondido rivals it—though with a different lineup, including the late Billy Preston.  Besides being Preston’s last performance, The Road to Escondido is a collection of mostly Cale tunes and they all have that Tulsa blues sound he is so known for.  It’s a good Cale album, and even with all those wonderful musicians, including many who worked on The Breeze eight years later, it sounds like Cale.

Know it Anywhere

That’s the thing about J.J. Cale’s music: you can pick it out a block away.  It’s a musical thumbprint.  “Danger,” with its keyboards and muted guitar, sets the tone for the album.  Cale has never been about blowing the amps; he is truly the sippin’ whiskey of the blues.  And here you have fourteen excellent examples of that sound, some new and some reworked such as the excellent version of “Anyway the Wind Blows” from 1974’s Okie.

The best of the songs are those which make it difficult to distinguish between Cale and Clapton and that’s what makes this a true collaboration.  Of course you can tell them apart, but they are close enough at times that we recognize what they brought to each other’s music. “Head’s In Georgia,” “Ride the River,” Last Will and Testament,” and others, including the antiwar “When This War is Over,” all add to and fit in well with the catalogues of both Cale and Clapton and make it a must for fans of either artist.


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