Road to Escondido

The Road to Escondido

4.5 6
by J.J. Cale, Eric Clapton

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Although their partnership isn't one of the more ballyhooed ones in the rock realm, these two singer-guitarists have been collaborating fruitfully for more than three decades -- with Clapton acting as the public face of that collaboration via his enduring versions of such Cale compositions as "Cocaine" and "After Midnight


Although their partnership isn't one of the more ballyhooed ones in the rock realm, these two singer-guitarists have been collaborating fruitfully for more than three decades -- with Clapton acting as the public face of that collaboration via his enduring versions of such Cale compositions as "Cocaine" and "After Midnight." The Road to Escondido, their first full-length recording together -- and Clapton's first duets collection since he teamed with B.B. King on Riding with the King -- is a warm, inviting collection of songs that maximizes the strengths of both participants. Cale contributes the lion's share of the compositions, and his fingerprints are immediately recognizable on songs like the sultry "Danger," which positively envelops the listener in its humid, swampy ambience. There's a similarly burnished feel to "Don't Cry Sister," a classic blues shuffle that slinks along more stealthily than one might expect, until Clapton unspools one of his effortlessly virtuosic solos. Slowhand takes the lead -- vocally and spiritually -- on a number of the disc's tracks, most effectively on the gentle "Three Little Girls" and the woozy "Last Will and Testament," but he's not averse to sharing the spotlight, giving Cale some room to stretch out vocally on "Sporting Life Blues" and bringing John Mayer in to punch up the sinewy "Hard to Thrill." As depicted in these songs, The Road to Escondido isn't a superhighway -- it's the kind of two-lane path that makes a leisurely amble a simple pleasure that's easy to enjoy.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Two artists had an enormous impact on Eric Clapton's music in the '70s: Delaney & Bonnie and J.J. Cale. Clapton joined Delaney & Bonnie's backing band after Cream dissolved, an experience that helped him ease away from the bombast of the power trio and into the blend of soul, blues, pop, and rock that defined his solo sound. Delaney Bramlett helped steer Clapton's eponymous 1970 solo debut, which not only came very close to replicating the sound of Delaney & Bonnie's records from that time, but also had a rollicking version of J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" that was Clapton's first solo hit. Cale's influence surfaced again a few years later on Clapton's 1978 album Slowhand, which not only had J.J.'s sardonic "Cocaine" as its centerpiece but also drew heavily from Cale's laconic groove. Although Clapton progressively polished his sound over the course of the '80s, dabbling in pop along the way, he never quite strayed from the blueprint that he wrote based on his love of Cale's music, so his decision to team up with Cale for a full-fledged duet album called The Road to Escondido in 2006 felt natural, perhaps even overdue. After all, Clapton's work has borne the imprint of Cale's sound for over three decades now, so a duet record 36 years after Eric had a hit with "After Midnight" feels right. Initially, Clapton planned to cut a record with Cale functioning as a producer, but the project morphed into a duet album where Cale has a stronger presence than Clapton: the superstar might have brought in his longtime producer/collaborator Simon Climie, who has helmed every one of his records since 1998's Pilgrim, but Cale brought in members of his backing band and wound up writing 11 of the album's 14 tracks, effectively dominating The Road to Escondido. Even if Cale is the driving force behind the album, it's easy to listen to the album and think otherwise, since Climie gives this a precise, polished production that's entirely too slick for the rootsy music the duo plays, which in turn makes it sonically similar to all Clapton albums of the past ten years. Also, there are a lot of cameos from familiar pros (drummer Steve Jordan; bassist Pino Palladino; guitarists Albert Lee, Derek Trucks, and John Mayer; the late Billy Preston in some of his last sessions), giving this a crisp, professional vibe more in line with Clapton than Cale. But the real reason that it would be easy to mistake The Road to Escondido as a solo Eric Clapton effort is that it's nearly impossible to distinguish him from J.J. Cale throughout the entire record. Sure, there aren't nearly as many synths as there were on Reptile or the stilted adult pop of Back Home, but the laid-back groove -- even when the music starts jumping, it never breaks a sweat -- sounds like a Clapton record through and through. More than that, The Road to Escondido reveals exactly how much Clapton learned from Cale's singing; their timbre and phrasing is nearly identical, to the point that it's frequently hard to discern who is singing when. Disconcerting this may be, but it's hardly bad, since it never feels like Clapton is copying Cale; instead, it shows their connection, that they're kindred spirits. And if Clapton popularized Cale's sound, he's paying him back with this record, which will bring him to a wider audience -- and Cale, in turn, has given Clapton his best record in a long time by focusing Clapton on this soulful, mellow groove and giving him a solid set of songs. While it is hard not to wish that there was a little less NPR slickness and a little more grit to the record -- this is roots music after all, so it should have some dirt to it -- this is still a very appealing record, capturing the duo working the same territory that's served them both well over the years but still finding something new there, largely because they're doing it together and clearly enjoying each other's company. It's relaxed and casual in the best possible sense: it doesn't sound lazy, it sounds lived-in, even with Climie's too-clean production, and that vibe -- coupled with Cale's sturdy songs -- makes this is an understated winner. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Product Details

Release Date:
Reprise / Wea


Album Credits

Performance Credits

J.J. Cale   Primary Artist,Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals
Eric Clapton   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Taj Mahal   Harmonica
Albert Lee   Guitar
Billy Preston   Hammond Organ,fender rhodes,Wurlitzer
Bruce Fowler   Horn
Simon Climie   Percussion
James Cruce   Percussion,Drums
Nathan East   Bass
Gary Gilmore   Bass
Marty Grebb   Horn
Jim Karstein   Percussion,Drums
Abraham Laboriel   Drums
Christine Lakeland   Acoustic Guitar,Background Vocals
Steve Madaio   Horn
Pino Palladino   Bass
Jerry Peterson   Horn
Walt Richmond   Piano,fender rhodes,Wurlitzer
David Teegarden   Percussion
Derek Trucks   Guitar
Willie Weeks   Bass
Dennis "Cannonball" Caplinger   Fiddle
Doyle Bramhall   Guitar
Steve Jordan   Drums
John Mayer   Guitar
Steven "Steven J." Jordan   Drums
Dennis Caplinger   Fiddle

Technical Credits

J.J. Cale   Composer
Brownie McGhee   Composer
Eric Clapton   Composer,Producer,Concept
Simon Climie   Programming,Producer
Alan Douglas   Engineer
Mike Kappus   Management
Lee Dickson   Guitar Techician
John Mayer   Composer
Catherine Roylance   Art Direction
Joel Evenden   Pro-Tools
Nigel Carroll   Personal Assistant

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The Road to Escondido 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent idea to bring these two bluesy singer/songwriter/guitarists together. Clapton contributes only two songs, and they are easy to spot after the first listen or two. Cale's new songs are mostly good, but the rehash of "Call Me the Breeze" under the title "When This War is Over" is bland and boring. On the other hand, the new, upbeat version of "Don't Cry Sister" is a success. There are a few gems, such as "Head's in Georgia," "Hard to Thrill," and "Last Will and Testament," but I find myself skipping past some of the plainer tracks, such as "Dead End Road" and "Easy." A little less would have been more....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like the way Clapton has adopted the style of J.J. I also like the very good mixture of songs - including some real blues - especially track 12. This is a perfect mixture of feel good stuff including some intensive guitar playing by Clapton.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guitar work, singing, songwriting, style, its all here. Two legends of music, have made an album together for the first time, I was very excited when I heard these two were making this CD, and it has not dissapointed. Go get it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Outstanding mix of music style. It is a pleasure to hear Cale and Clapton together again. With background from so many other artists it makes it a must have for any collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have to disagree on this one with the reviewers. Very middle of the road, predictably mellow and, well, not really that inspiring. Out of all the possible Cooder and Clapton alternative materials, this one ranks in the cellar. Enough said.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago