CD Review: Clapton and Cale's Road to Escondido Print
Tuesday, 27 February 2007 20:27

By This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , Staff Writer

Eric Clapton and JJ Cale's "The Road to Escondido" is a collaboration of two rock icons on a blues, folk, country, Americana, and rock album. "The Road" began back in 2004 when Eric Clapton held his three-day Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas, featuring J.J. Cale. After working together, Clapton asked Cale produce an album for him. Released on November 7, 2006, it contains the final recordings of Billy Preston, to whom it is also dedicated.

"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.

Clapton's covers of Cale's legendary tunes "Cocaine" and "After Midnight" ignited the relationship 36 years ago, but this recording marks the first time the two musicians have written, produced and played on an album together. Joining them on this CD are guitar notables Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, John Mayer, and Albert Lee, who trade riffs throughout the album.

"This was the realization of what may have been my last ambition, to work with the man who's music20061020_02 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.

On "The Road," Cale takes most of the writing credits with 11 songs, Clapton's contribution of "Three Little Girls," and John Mayer's "Hard to Thrill" round out the songwriting credits. Both Clapton and Cale play and sing on all of the tracks. They also used Cale's backup band to lay down the foundation for the album, while an all star line up of musicians like Taj Mahal, the late Billy Preston and Steve Jordan round out the sound.

Track List:

1. "Danger"
2. "Heads in Georgia"
3. "Missing Person"
4. "When this War is Over"
5. "Sporting Life Blues" (Brownie McGhee)
6. "Dead End Road"
7. "It's Easy"
8. "Hard to Thrill" (Eric Clapton/John Mayer)
9. "Anyway the Wind Blows"
10. "Three Little Girls" (Eric Clapton)
11. "Don't Cry Sister"
12. "Last Will and Testament"
13. "Who Am I Telling You"
14. "Ride the River"

20061020_01 The compositions on the album are glassy and extremely polished. Equally slick is the songwriting, with simple, pure, and straightforward lyrics that lock in perfectly with the rock and folksy Americana compositions. It has all of the earmarks of a J.J. Cale album - which is exactly what Clapton wanted.

You won't find over the top guitar work on "The Road." Rather Cale, Clapton and the ensemble cast take a more mature and grown up approach to guitar work. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since the mission for the album is collaborating artists creating great songs and balancing different styles, all while displaying the music maturity of the players. Gone are the big booming guitar hero solos by Clapton or the others.

But that's not to say that you won't find some great guitar work by the slingers on this record. Here's a guide to some of the Guitar Hero Highlights:

On "Dead End Road" you'll hear some killer country pickin' by Albert Lee. It's clearly one of the guitar highlights on the album.

"Missing Person" and "It's Easy" have the expected doses of masterful slide work by Derek Trucks that are simply flawless. The former highlighting Trucks signature electric slide work, and the latter offering some slick acoustic playing.

"Hard to Thrill" boasts some plucky and ultra clean guitar work by John Mayer, who continues to20061020_03 impress with his constantly improving skills.

"Anyway the Wind Blows" provides some blustery, overdriven Strat-o-playing by Clapton. It's a worthwhile effort.

"Don't Cry Sister" and "Ride the River" make you wonder why Mark Knopfler wasn't invited to play on these tracks. Coming right from his wheelhouse, these Knopfler-esque tunes come with some great runs and haunting guitar tones from Clapton's Strat. As the last track on the album, "Ride the River" takes you out in guitar style.

"The Road to Escondido" is a very solid album from start to finish. Some may feel the album is a bit mellow and too introspective at times, but after a few times through, you'll find some real gems on this record. The fact is, with the superior musicianship, songwriting, and production from Clapton and J.J. Cale, the end result is a mature, polished, and high quality album that earns high praise from GJD.

CD Rating: 4 Picks.

(Rating scale= 1 don't go near it, 2 a one-hit wonder, 3 buy it on itunes and pick what you like, 4 great, 5 a classic)

The Road To Escondido Video Trailer (Quicktime)