J. J. Cale was a contemporary and friend of Eric Clapton. His songwriting and bluesy swamp rock appealed to Clapton, who would record a number of his songs during the course of his career, including such signature tunes as “Cocaine” and “After Midnight.” In 2006 they combined their talents to create the Grammy winning album The Road To Escondido. Cale passed away during July of 2013 at the age of 74. To honor his old friend, Clapton has released a tribute album covering 16 of his compositions.
Clapton gathered together such guitarists and singers as Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Don White, John Mayer, Derek Trucks, and Mark Knopfler and creates a heartfelt tribute to his long time friend. Also on hand as a rhythm section are bassist Nathan East and drummer Jim Keltner.
There have been good tribute albums and some very bad ones as well. I’m happy to say The Breeze falls on the good side of the ledger. In addition to his friends, Clapton made the wise decision to play guitar and/or sing on all the tracks. While he allows his guests to step forward, he is also present as a foundation for all of the songs.
Cale’s music has a simplicity and subtlety about it. Willie Nelson’s approach is very similar as he brings his weary voice to “Songbird.” He then teams up with one of the worlds great guitarist’s, Derek Trucks, as they cover “Starbound.”
Very few guitarists have a sound that rivals Clapton’s but Mark Knopfler is one. He brings his unique sound to “Someday.” John Mayer’s vocal takes “Magnolia” in a distinct country direction. Tom Petty and Clapton have surprisingly good vocal harmonies on “Rock And Roll Records,” “I Got The Same Old Blues,” and “The Old Man And Me.”
“Call Me The Breeze,” “Cajun Moon,” and “Since You Said Goodbye” are Eric Clapton tracks. He does not overwhelm the material but brings a laid back style that enhances the textures.
The Breeze is a labor of love from one friend to another. It is a fitting memorial to J.J. Cale and does justice to his legacy.