Other Voices 005

Monday, 08 April 2013

At sixty-eight years old, Eric Clapton is admitting he's an old man. That's the message I get from Old Sock, his latest studio release. As I listen to it, I picture Clapton in a rocking chair on the porch (probably in some sunny clime, like the cover photo), strumming his guitar and singing some songs. Almost like he's celebrating his retirement.

It's not just the standards (songs older than Clapton himself) which dominate this CD that put that image in my mind. The vibe of the whole album is relaxation. He's taking it easy, freed from commercial pressures (Old Sock has been released by the tiny imprint Surfdog, which previously put out albums by Butthole Surfers, Glenn Campbell, Joss Stone and Brian Setzer), playing whatever he wants.

The result is a wide variety of music. There are the standards (including "Goodnight Irene," "All of Me," and "Our Love is Here to Stay"), there's some reggae ("Further On Down the Road," "Til Your Well Runs Dry'), and a couple of blues ("Born to Lose" and "Still Got the Blues"). It's not like he's trying to reinvent himself as a crooner, a la Rod Stewart, he's just playing the stuff he likes.

The multitude of guest stars, including Paul McCartney, Steve Winwood, J.J. Cale, Taj Mahal, and even Chaka Khan, adds to the casual feel. It's like he just called up his buddies and said, "Hey, wanna come over and jam?" Except it turned out to be more like a campfire sing-along than a jam session.

The problem is that the relaxed feeling extends not just to the circumstance of the recording, but to the playing as well. With a couple of exceptions – the hard rocking "Gotta Get Over" and some sweet blues picking in "Still Got the Blues" – the performances range from pleasantly mellow to downright soporific. At times he sounds like he's about to fall asleep in that rocking chair. That isn't to say the music here is offensive (it's pleasant enough), it's just bland. In fact, I can see it getting heavy rotation in situations where pleasant and bland are the order of the day; say, a company picnic. But it's not going to get much play on my iPod. I don't begrudge any musician the right to play what they want – to perform the music which makes them happy – but I wouldn't be surprised if, like an old sock, this album ends up at the bottom of the drawer fairly quickly.


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine –
Eric Clapton – Old Sock[CD review]


Old Sock will be released on March 12, 2013 by Bushbranch/Surfdog. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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