What does it sound like?:
J.J. Cale was a quiet, gentle soul. Throughout his career he shunned the limelight, even spending most of the eighties as a recluse. His songwriting may be better known as he has been covered by a wide range of artists. His guitar playing was masterfully understated, effortless and incredibly fluid, the antithesis of shredding. Neil Young said his touch was unspeakable. Eric Clapton described him as one of the most important artists in Rock. God thinks J.J.’s a god.
J.J. is the personification of the Tulsa Sound, where he was born and bred, a bled of Blues, Rockabilly, Country and Folk. His songs are deceptively simple and proceed at a stately pace. They are mostly mellow, laid-back grooves. His voice has similarities to a shy Ry Cooder as he would often whisper or position himself low in the mix. He perfected a technique of multi-tracking his voice harmonising so he wouldn’t sound like himself. He produced, engineered and mixed himself, so his sound maintained its characteristics throughout his career, unless distracted by guests. His ability to exploit studio technology and also play piano, bass, drums and flute, meant recording was often a solitary experience, enabling him to forge such a unique sound.
A trawl through his off cuts has reaped rewards, unearthing these fifteen previously unreleased tracks. All are fine examples of J.J. Cale at his best. His wife, Lakeland, and long term manager, Mike Kappus, have curated and provided some finishing touches. Some are just J.J. and guitar, others have a full band configuration and a couple are piano led. He uses a few tricks and some sleight of hand to add enough variation to keep the listener engaged. The net result is an album that hangs together remarkably well and is a rare example of an excellent posthumous release. It ranks alongside his 1971 debut, Naturally, his most lauded, Troubadour, and his last, Roll On, from 2009. If you are not familiar with his oeuvre, Stay Around is as good a place to start as any. It captures the essence of the man and his music perfectly.
What does it all *mean*?
If it’s not broke, why fix it? Like John Lee Hooker, J.J. Cale found a style and stuck with it.
Goes well with…
A smooth single malt that slides down warmly.
There comes a time in every Afterworder’s life when the best accompaniment to the setting sun is a pleasant, easy on the ear, toe tapper.
Might suit people who like…
Slowhand, Ry Cooder, Leon Russell.