Eric Clapton is clearly comfortable in is position as an elder statement of blues on his latest album, "Old Sock," released March 12. Blues, soul, reggae, folk, jazz and an all-star cast of players are all featured on Clapton’s 21st studio album and first release since 2010.
It’s appropriate that Clapton would release "Old Sock" as he embarks on a world tour to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a professional musician (he joined the Yardbirds in 1963). Clapton, over the course of 12 tracks, jams on his influences proves he is still one of the best bluesmen living today. Clapton recorded only two original songs for the album, "Gotta Get Over," and "Every Little Thing." In fact, a third of the songs on the album were first recorded in the 1930s.
Clapton opens the album with a tuned up reggae cover of Taj Mahal's "Further Down the Road," that sets the loose tone for the album. Clapton is still a tight guitar player but his jams linger a bit longer these days. Taj Mahal can be heard playing harmonica on that track and he's only the first of many remarkable artists that contributed to this album.
One of more methodical moments on the album is the slow-dance jazz number, "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," where Clapton’s voice sounds similar to Elvis Costello as he interrupts the Oscar Hammerstein song. Clapton also does a fine job covering George Gershwin's "Love is Here to Stay." On both songs, Clapton is comfortable playing in line with the sweeping percussion.
If you're looking to hear Clapton shred, "Gotta Get Over," is where you're going to find it. And, if you were looking for Chaka Khan on an Eric Clapton album, you’ll hear her singing backup.
Clapton’s version of Peter Tosh's "Till Your Well Runs Dry," makes me wish he would record a reggae album; maybe he could even collaborate with Willie Nelson. It's songs like "Further Down the Road," that remind me of Clapton's version of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff."
Paul McCartney lends his bass and vocal talents to "All of Me," another jazz standard has been covered by many artists including the punk band NOFX and Willie Nelson.
With Clapton's guitar playing on "Gotta Get Over," being first, Steve Winwood's organ on "Still Got the Blues," is my second favorite moment on this album. First recorded by Gary Moore, Clapton and Winwood do a fine tribute to the British guitarist. The guitar and organ trade phrases well throughout the song and building up the jam that spreads out over the second half of the song.
Clapton plays up the folk roots of "Goodnight, Irene" a Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter song recorded in 1933. He manages to stay true to the song’s original form while modernizing it in a way any 21st century country music fan could appreciate.
As a contrast "Every Little Thing," has a reggae beat and Clapton takes his time delivering a climatic guitar solo. There is also a heartwarming moment when his daughters, Julie, Ella and Sophie, provide backup vocals singing, "Everything you do is beautiful/ open your heart and let the love come in."
For Clapton fans, this better than a greatest hits album; this is Slowhand playing his favorite songs. The two new songs are both fun and show Clapton is still on top of his game. Even for those who aren't fans of Clapton, the album has something for everyone.
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