Eric Clapton – Me and Mr. Johnson

This CD is somewhat of a departure from what one might expect from Eric Clapton. There’s not a whole lot of flashy guitar, fast riffs or even extended ones. Instead what the listener is treated to is Clapton’s interpretation of Robert Johnson’s music and his attempt to capture the essence of the songs. Before you listen to this CD, read the liner notes; they are very short but give an insight as to what Clapton is trying to achieve.

The songs are well arranged, marvelously performed and are about as close to capturing the real soul of Johnson’s music as one could expect. Clapton writes in the notes with the CD that Robert Johnson sounded as though he was singing for himself only and that other music was dressed up as something might be for a shop window.

The performances on this CD are somewhere between the two – as a tribute to Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton seems to have managed a fine balance between merely duplicating the music note for note and embellishing it to make it his own. Tracks such as “When You’ve Got A Good Friend” are soulful and sound almost like Clapton is indeed singing alone in his kitchen. Others like “They’re Red Hot” sound a little contrived, but only because Clapton does not have the drawl in his voice to make it sound like the southern song it is. That being said, I enjoyed every track on the album and never once reached for the fast forward button, even after listening to all the songs a number of times in one evening.

I found this CD to be very enjoyable and would urge anyone with even a passing interest in the roots of the blues to pick up a copy and hear just how much can be accomplished musically with such simple and rudimentary progressions.

But even more worthwhile might be just listening and enjoying.