Clapton frequently speaks of himself as a messenger, originally passing on the blues, then in the 70s discovering the music of Bob Marley and J.J. Cale, whose songs he covered to great success. Although not a close friend of the late Tulsa-based Cale until they collaborated on the Grammy-winning Road to Escondido in 2006, Clapton felt strongly enough about the man and his slippery, slightly swampy and crafted music to organise this tribute with Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler (who copped some of Cale's downbeat delivery), John Mayer, Don White, Willie Nelson, pedal steel player Greg Leisz and Derek Trucks.
The blues-based guitar work by these stellar players is suitably understated and delivered with pinpoint accuracy, but few songs stray far from Cale's originals. The best tracks are those which do: John Mayer offers a slow and humid Magnolia; Nelson and Clapton make Songbird into a lost country classic; White and Clapton treat I'll Be There as truckstop-jukebox honky-tonk pop, and Petty's languidly whispered The Old Man and Me with Leisz is a quiet standout.
Otherwise, lovely though it is, this mostly comes off as rather too reverential and polite.
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The man who wrote After Midnight and Cocaine gets the nod from admirers
- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz