Man, is Eric Clapton mellow these days. Mr. “Guitar God” has put aside the big guitar drama for a very laid-back record. What you will get is superb musicianship, songs that go way back in the standards catalog and production that often sounds influenced by either J.J. Cale or Nelson Riddle. Clapton makes mention of judgment day enough times to convince you that he’s seriously considered his own mortality. Fortunately, Clapton pokes fun at his “ancient” status just enough so as not to become tedious.
The opening track, “Traveling Alone,” ambles along on a steady rambling beat accompanied only by organ – courtesy of Steve Winwood – shuffling percussion and vocals. Is Clapton poking fun at his advanced years? You can almost feel a grin on his face as he sings “Rocking Chair.” The song keeps exactly the pace you’d expect to if you were tilting back and forth on your porch, pondering lost relatives, and wondering how long it will be before you are reunited. Piano, brushed drums and bottle neck guitar are his companions on this one.
The fourteen tracks on Clapton run the gamut from standard ballads like “Autumn Leaves” to blues classics such as “Rolling And Tumbling. From J. J. Cale's “River Runs Deep,” a dark, somber tale of death, to Irving Berlin’s torchy “How Deep is the Ocean,” you’ll be guessing as to where Clapton is going next. As the man himself put it “if it’s a surprise to the fans, that’s only because it’s a surprise to me, as well.” Clapton fares best on, not surprisingly, the blues-infused tracks and on the New Orleans’s flavored numbers including “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful.” His renditions of standards, at times, teeter precariously on the edge of easy listening.I guess when an artist gets to this point in his career, he's permitted to indulge his persoanl tastes.
Clapton is joined by a fabulous guest line-up. Popping up along with Steve Winwood is legendary New Orleans songwriter/pianist Allen Toussaint, J.J.Cale, and one-time paramour Sheryl Crow kicks in vocals.