Who better, really, to kick off a new tribute album to J.J. Cale than his long-time champion Eric Clapton? “Call Me The Breeze,” in fact, may be the most important Cale song not already associated with a terrific Clapton cover — featured, as it was, most famously on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 album Second Helping.
Clapton plays it straight, channeling the laid-back 1970s-stoner style he employed to such great effect when he was regularly diving into the Cale songbook for gems like “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.” There was always a stillness at the center of Cale’s work, and Clapton captures it once more here.
A long-awaited album-length collaboration followed in 2006, with Road to Escondido, before Cale succumbed to heart failure last year at the age of 74. That moved Clapton to gather a few pals together for another exploration of Cale’s rough-hewn gifts on the aptly titled The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale.
Due on July 29, 2014 and credited to Eric Clapton and Friends, the set finds Mark Knopfler (“Someday”), John Mayer (“Magnolia”), Tom Petty (“The Old Man and Me”) and Willie Nelson (“Starbound”) offering spirited updates, as well. Clapton also works with Petty on two songs (“Rock and Roll Records” and “I Got The Same Old Blues”), with Mayer on two more (“Lies” and “Don’t Wait”), with Nelson on “Songbird” and with Knopfler on “Train to Nowhere”.