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JJ Cale Roll On Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

You get the feeling this 70-year-old master will roll on for some time to come.

Jon Lusk 2009

Multi-instrumentalist, speak-singer, producer and inventor of the 'Tulsa sound', a distinctively flowing boogie flavoured style, J J Cale is best known for Cocaine, a big hit when Eric Clapton covered it in 1977. The two collaborated most recently on the Grammy-winning 2006 album The Road To Escondido, and Clapton is back again here, on the title track. Though hardly groundbreaking, it's a pleasantly understated and undemanding album that reveals new sophistication and surprises with each listen.

Never one to play too may notes, Cale is a tasteful, restrained guitarist and still tends to half bury his voice in the mix. His modest but unmistakable vocal style blends the conversational manner of Guy Clark and the mumble of Mark Knopfler, who has acknowledged Cale's influence, perhaps equally as a guitarist and singer. Apart from his delectable twangings on guitar and pedal steel, Cale plays most instruments himself – a trademark ever since the early seventies. Most notable is his seemingly effortless piano, trickling away on many tracks, in particular lighting up the fluid, chooglin' chug of Cherry Street, a definite highlight. He even plunks on a banjo on Strange Days.

Who Knew is the first of several songs that employ the tried and frankly over-tested 12-bar format, here in a jazzy setting that features Cale tentatively scatting. Down To Memphis sounds like something Charlie Musselwhite might have written, or sung. The driving, funky Fonda-Lina celebrates sex in frank fashion (''A story as old as Jesus/Fonda-Lina has a void to fill''), though it's one place where Cale's penchant for programmed drums lets him down slightly.

Leaving In The Morning is the most stripped-down piece, with some lovely combinations of pedal steel and acoustic guitars. The production on the old fashioned R&B belter, Oh Mary, is oddly engaging, with the cymbals front-placed, and Walt Richmond's rollicking piano way down in the background. Old Friend has a lush, warm country feel and Cale's most confident vocal, nicely augmented in multi-tracked form. By the swampy closer Bring Down The Curtain, you get the feeling this 70-year-old master will roll on for some time to come.

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