Monday, July 29, 2013

R.I.P. JJ Cale, Plus: New Pixies and New Elvis Costello

On Friday night, Blues/Roots Rock icon J.J. Cale died of a heart attack in La Jolla, CA.
Cale's name might not be familiar to you, but unless you haven't even stumbled across a Rock station in the last 40 years, you are familiar with his music-if only in passing.
The best way to describe Cale is as an influence-he influenced those who influenced everybody else. The mid-70s Eric Clapton sound is, essentially, J.J. Cale in overdrive.
Not to bag on Clapton, or Skynrd, or John Mayall (among many others) who covered and popularized Cale's tunes, but Cale was just ...cooler. Like, Miles-cool. Very much in a solid, smooth groove that is very hard for anyone to copy.
Keith Richards (when speaking of his own laid-back musical style) supposedly once said, "You have to be tight before you can be loose."
J.J. Cale's style was so hard to cop because it's relaxed nature belies the utter command of meter, melody, and harmony. Here's an example, then I'll post one of his well-known tunes...

Undeniably cool.
Once again, not to say anything negative about  Clapton, but you can see the appeal and it makes sense that Clapton was influenced. Better, more knowledgeable writers on the subject have, and will, pen thousands of words about men with similar roots influences coming together as they matured as artists. Coming out of the glorious bombast that was Cream and Clapton in the 60s, the more down-tempo jams and ballads that came later owe much to Cale's influence.
Next up is Lynyrd Skynyrd with their thoroughly rockin' jam on Cale's "Call Me the Breeze"...

One of the lesser-known (but equally great) J.J. Cale tunes as performed by probably the most influential British Bluesmen of all-John Mayall, the beautiful ballad "Sensitive Kind"-with a beautiful solo by guitarist Coco Montoya. ***

I'll try to include as many links to these artists so you can go back and learn more. Also, if anybody has anything to add, or more recommendations, please go nuts in the comment section. I only have time to do cursory research and there is a wealth of information and material for all these artists. If I can inspire anyone to learn more, and expand their tastes my job has been done for the evening.
Cale will be missed, but, as the saying goes, he will live-on through his art.

Next-up, new music from some old favs:
Another favorite celebrity quote of mine comes via Clint Eastwood. I have tried to find the exact reference (I think it was on the History Channel's series "Biography"). In the video Clint relays a piece of advice his dad once gave him, "Son, you either progress, or you decay".
Words to live by-especially if you are an artist.
Many artists get soft and boring as they get older.
Some don't.
My belief is that they continue learning and growing with the times. You don't have to go from playing Jazz or Punk to EDM to progress, you just have to take the threads of your work and weave them into other pieces of art-and be honest.
In the last 24 hours I have gotten to hear two  tunes by artists who have been around and influencing others for decades and have recently released new music.
Elvis Costello has a new project with The Roots, and Pixies have new material out as well. Both struck me as being worthy of their names at first listen, so, without any additional fanfare....

Well, that does it for tonight-hope you enjoyed!
Cheers! C.

***If you bothered to check? The asterisk is for another quote-this one about Coco Montoya. Once back when Letterman was still on NBC, John Mayall and his band sat in with Paul Schaffer and the gang before their performance on that night's show. Coming back from a commercial break, Coco Montoya was playing a solo. As the music ended Letterman commented (speaking of Mayall's legendary status), "'s easy bein' a legend when you got a guy like that playin'  for ya..." (in regards to Montoya's playing).

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