Eric Clapton’s ‘Crossroads Guitar Festival’ is not an annual gig but instead happens every three years. It is a who’s who of rock, jazz and especially, blues talent. April 12th & 13th were no exception with some big names like The Allman Brothers, John Mayer, Keith Urban, Keith Richards, and Vince Gill. Though it is a double-disk, I felt compelled to check out this elusive festival via the 29 tracks before me.
‘Tears In Heaven’ started the first disk, much the way it sounded over 20 years ago, but after being on the shelf for about 9 years, Clapton breathed new life into this one through his acoustic guitar, his delivery and the reggae vibe that brightened this tune about death into a song that is so full of life.
The second cut, also featuring Eric, as well as Vince Gill gave a honky tonk feel to ‘Lay Down Sally’. It sure sounds like there is some sharp slide work on this one, but not sure if it is Clapton or not.
Booker T Jones’ “Green Onions” was full of star power with Keb’ Mo, Steve Cropper, Albert Lee and more. The spotlight still fell firmly on Booker, who shared it with his guests. There was some searing guitar on this one.
I did not know who Kurt Rosenwinkel was, but quickly found him to be an outstanding jazz guitarist on ‘Heavenly Bodies’. The piano was perfectly subtle and helped to soften the tune.
I am not familiar with Earl Klugh’s music but have certainly seen his name before and was quite impressed with ‘This Time’. Earl is considered by many to be one of the best acoustic players in the world. This song is beautiful with a feeling of the sun setting over the ocean.
‘Mirabella’ is a shorter more challenging Klugh number that had him almost playing flamenco style.
The Robert Cray Band performed ‘Great Big Old House’, which showcased Robert’s brand of soulful blues. It is nice that between Cray’s songwriting, singing, and guitar playing he doesn’t seem to feel the need to show-off a lot. He lets his songs speak for themselves, as this one does.
‘She’s Alright’ featured Doyle Bramhall II and Gary Clark Jr. playing some filthy-dirty electric blues. This track had a serious Hendrix vibe.
Doyle Bramhall II also played with Citizen Cope on ‘Bullet & A Target’. I’m not that knowledgeable about either act, but I like the reggae blues sound that this mixture pulled-off.
‘Queen Of California’ is probably my favorite John Mayer song tune, because of its Allmans meet the Grateful Dead feel and this version even more so. The jam is a bit of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Dark Star’ and the Allman’s ‘Midnight Rider’ all tossed together. Though, John’s voice isn’t album quality on this one, between the piano and guitar, there is nothing missing.
John Mayer was joined by Keith Urban to cover the Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. Urban didn’t sound as comfortable as Mayer, but he didn’t let that stop him from trying to eclipse John in the vocal department. As much as I am not a huge John Mayer fan, I can’t deny his ability on guitar and this live setting is great for showing that skill off.
I have only heard one Gary Clark Jr. song on the radio and it sounded nothing like ‘Next Door Neighbor Blues’. This song is a jangley acoustic blues number that elicits thought of southern back porches. I’m not positive, but it sounds like Clark Jr. was solo on this one with a stomp box and a high-hat. I really like this track.
Robert Randolph joined Buddy Guy on ‘Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues’, which started with a scorching intro before becoming a Chicago blues song. The guitar work was incredible and the singing was impressive as well.
‘Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad’ saw Eric join the Allman Brothers, which brought back memories of the famous session with Eric and Duanne from over 40 years ago. Having Eric, Warren and Derek on stage at the same time is like making a poster for the past, present and future of the guitar. This one was phenomenal with the three guitars playing around each other well.
The second disc starts with Sonny Landreth’s bayou flavored ‘Congo Square’. Sonny has Derek Trucks with him which is a welcome addition to any set. This one had some excellent jamming, which isn’t surprising considering the co-pilots.
John Mayer and Doyle Bramhall II return together for ‘Change It’. They played acoustic, but ripped it up.
‘Ooh- Ooh- Ooh’ is Jimmy Vaughn trying to channel the spirit of the soul blues legend Bobby “Blue” Bland. His playing sounded great and the horns were a nice touch.
Blake Mills performed the Drifter’s ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ with Derek Trucks on guitar. This version was a little slower than the original, but had more of a country western vibe than too.
‘Don’t Worry Baby’ starts off quickly with Los Lobos showing off the talent that has kept them together and touring for 40 years.
‘I Ain’t Living Long Like This’ with Vince Gill and Albert Lee sounds like a southern rocker, until Vince starts singing and then it seems more outlaw country. Kind of has an Eagles vibe to it.
Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ tackled the blues classic ‘Diving Duck Blues’ that sounded great with the guys on acoustic guitars and Taj doing the singing, sometimes sounding like Wolfman Jack. The song seems to be made up of some classic blues lyric, that has become the backbone for other blues tunes.
Gary Clark Jr. has an R&B vibe with the emphasis on the Blues and the rockin’ kind on ‘When My Train Pulls In’. This one kind of feels like Ben Harper doing ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Way better than the tune the radio put out for him.
Jeff Beck’s ‘Mna Na Heireann’ is a slightly mellow possibly middle-eastern blues with violin. Beck’s work on this one is often in the background, but is beautiful in its minimalism.
Neil Young’s ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ done by Allman, Haynes and Trucks was glorious. These three together with Greg singing the pained lyrics about heroin addiction on “every junkie’s like the setting sun” was nothing short of magical.
Greg, Warren, and Derek also did the Allman Brothers’ classic ‘Midnight Rider’. Again, with the acoustic set-up and some amazing harmonies between Greg and Warren. Better than the acoustic version that sometimes gets played on the radio.
‘Key To The Highway’ is a barroom blues tune with Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. It was a great vehicle for some traditional blues riffs. These guys sounded great together.
Andy Fairweather Low joined Clapton on ‘Gin House Blues’. This is a slow blues number that hardly gets to a trot, which works for a soulful tune that is serious about pointing out the woes of alcohol.
‘Got To Get Better In A Little While’ has a heavy groove immediately, like a locomotive of rock energy. There is some great jamming on this song. The drumming is tight and the organ takes this one to church. Eric Clapton doesn’t miss a beat.
‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ by Clapton’s old band Cream was a perfect way to end the album. It is a rocker from way back. The set of music on the two disks ends totally opposite of how it first began with Clapton acoustic.
So after a few listens, I can say I wish that Clapton would bring his Crossroads Fest closer to Colorado, but until that day, I will cherish the two disks from Eric and his abundance of friends who performed this year. These are 29 songs from various artists that played with only 7 tracks of Clapton himself. Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’, Robert Randolph and Booker T. Jones were among the incredible artists that made the 2013 Guitar Festival a must hear. Enjoy!!
HAPPY LISTENING!!!! 😉