Bentley's Bandstand: Eric Clapton, Clapton

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Eric Clapton, Clapton, Reprise Records

By now, Eric Clapton has nothing left to prove except to himself. He has played some of the most passionate music of the past 45 years, gotten lost in a wilderness of the soul only to find his way back and taken a stand second to none. What’s so wonderful is that he is still obviously in the thrall of expressing himself in new and unique ways.

This latest achievement could easily be called Clapton’s Sampler, because it includes just about every style the man is the master of, and in many ways, is his mountaintop. It may not sound like that immediately, but there is a depth of expression on songs like Lil’ Son Jackson’s “Traveling Alone,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rocking Chair” and Snooky Pryor’s “Judgement Day” an artist works their whole life to get to.

In many ways, blues is the continual quest to find the end of the line, that place where the sadness of the world’s hardships are finally overcome by facing them down. That’s why age is not an issue; if anything it helps strengthen the results. And make no mistake: Eric Clapton has realized this, and chosen songs that allow him to accept where he is in life. By also putting his golden touch on the standards “How Deep is the Ocean,” “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful” and the absolutely haunting album-ender “Autumn Leaves,” he tips over into the timeless zone of pure expression.

Employing some of New Orleans’ finest musicians including Allen Toussaint and Wynton Marsalis, along with the bluesier Derek Trucks and Kim Wilson, this is a roots-a-rama that will not be stopped. Co-produced by Clapton and Texan Doyle Bramhall II, it’s like they found the twilight zone and turned up the lights just enough so we can see our way around. But the darkness is still there, keeping things from coming completely into focus. Great music demands mystery. Without that element of not knowing being present, there is no guesswork. Minus that, what’s the point? The search would be over.

Eric Clapton has spent his entire musical life trying to find his way home, only to discover he’s been there from the start. He just didn’t know what it looked like then. Apparently being God ain’t as easy as it seems.

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.