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Me & Mr. Johnson by Eric Clapton

Some critics have panned this record.... um, CD, because it's not "raw" enough, like they're expecting some wild-eyed, scorching king-Hell epiphany because the words "Robert Johnson" and "Eric Clapton" appear on the same slice of overpriced sound-medium. I think it's to Clapton's credit that he doesn't try to "recapture" or emulate the fire he possessed in the 60s & early 70s -- people change, grow, and grow older, and to expect the clock to run backward is folly. Fact is, Clapton -- who, to be painfully honest, I'd written off many years ago as over-the-hill -- sounds (both vocally and instrumentally) down-to-earth passionate, committed and energetic, and, more importantly, as if he's genuinely enjoying himself while paying tribute to Johnson's music and icon-hood. I mean, he could've gone the purist-style "respectful" route, played acoustically (as Johnson pre-dated electric instruments) with as much reverence and pious, purist solemnity as he could, trying to "do Johnson" as he sounded in the 1930s, and that could've been as much fun as a Don Johnson Film Festival. Instead, Clapton and his small band (no "guest stars" here) bring intimate, urban(e) electricity to Johnson's tunes the same way the generation following Johnson did, wiring the country blues to the concept of bright lights, big city. The band is tight (w/ studio/fusion cats N. East & S. Gadd, how could it not be?)[Steve Gadd?!?!?], but the production lets the rough side drag a bit, with a warm, human, South Side studio (anti-) sheen to it. If you're hoping for the unrefined grit of the early Cobra, United, and Chess sounds, you'd best seek some reissues of Otis Rush and Robert Nighthawk, 'cause you won't find that here. If you want to hear a Legend/Elder Statesman-type get back in touch with the energies and shades that lit a fire under him in the first place, check out Me & Mr. Johnson -- Eric is BACK, folks.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Eric Clapton
  • CD Title: Me & Mr. Johnson
  • Genre: Blues
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Reprise
  • Tracks: Love In Vain; Theyre Red Hot; 32-20 Blues; Little Queen of Spades; Last Fair Deal Gone Down; nine others.'
  • Musicians: E.C.: vocals, guitar; Andy Fairweather-Low, Doyle Bramhall: guitar; Billy Preston: keyboards; Steve Gadd: drums; Nathan East: bass; Jerry Portnoy: harmonica; others.
  • Rating: Four Stars
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