Eric Clapton - Me And Mr Johnson

In a career that has so far lasted forty years, Eric Clapton has decided to pay tribute to Robert Johnson, the Mississippi bluesman of the 1930s whose career lasted only a fraction of that time and consisted of only twenty nine songs and the legend that he has sold his soul to the Devil in return for his talent. Clapton says that Johnson is "a landmark that I navigate by, whenever I feel myself going adrift". He has of course covered Johnson tunes before during his time with John Mayalls Bluesbreakers and with Cream in the Sixties and several tunes in his solo career.

Anyone familiar with Robert Johnson's recordings will have heard nothing like it before. There is very little in any field of music to match it's darkness and intensity and Clapton says in the sleevenotes that he "could only take it in small doses" at first.

Accompanying Clapton are ex Sam Cooke, Beatles and Rolling Stones keyboard player Billy Preston, Doyle Bramhall and former sixties popstar Andy Fairweather Low on guitar, Jerry Portnoy harmonica, longtime Clapton sideman Nathan East on bass and veteran session drummer Steve Gadd on drums. The musical stew this band cooks up is not dissimilar to the 'comeback' albums Muddy Waters made with Johnny Winter in the late 70s. Various moods are created, "Travelling Riverside Blues" is quite menacing, "Come On In My Kitchen" featuring acoustic guitars has a gospel flavour to it. "They're Red Hot" is the most uptempo track with a vaudeville feel featuring excellent piano playing from Billy Preston. "Stop Breaking Down Blues" and "Love In Vain", two johnson songs also covered by the Rolling Stones, the former taken at a more relaxed pace than the Stones version.

Every track is a rebuilding of the song rather than being merely a cover version and the Stellar band rocks and swings. If you prefer Clapton playing the blues as opposed to rock then this is an album for you.

Derek McCann

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