On Me And Mr.Johnson, Eric Clapton covers 14 of the 29 songs Robert Johnson, the most mythic figure of the blues, wrote and recorded in his lifetime. For fans of deep blues,it doesn 't get any better than this. After the success of Clapton 's first two traditional blues albums -+1994 's Gram- my-winning triple-platinum, #1 pop From The Cradle, and 2000 's Grammy-winning, double-platinum,#3-charting Riding With The King collaboration with B.B.King -+Me And Mr.Johnson finds Clapton once more at the crossroads of blues and rock.
It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of singer-guitarist-songwriter Robert Johnson
's contribution to blues music. The same can be said of Eric Clapton, one of Mr. Johnson's most dedicated interpreters. From his work with John Mayall
's Bluesbreakers to Cream
and beyond, Clapton has arguably attracted more widespread attention to Johnson's music than any other living musician. A decade after his all-blues From the Cradle
(which included no Johnson material), Clapton jumps into the icon's catalog with both feet by covering 14 Johnson tunes. With a stripped-down veteran band that includes such longtime associates as drummer Steve Gadd, keyboardist Billy Preston, and harmonica ace Jerry Portnoy, the guitarist attacks these songs with passion, intelligence, and a refreshing lack of blues-rock pretense. From the upbeat jump of "32-20 Blues" and "They're Red Hot" to the slower, grinding "Little Queen of Spades" and "Milkcow's Calf Blues," Clapton acquits himself well, eschewing his slicker inclinations with arrangements that underscore Johnson's rawest tendencies--although perhaps he doesn't seem sufficiently terrified when walking with Lucifer on "Me and the Devil Blues." Still, this is a successful and admirable return to his roots, one that will hopefully introduce an even larger audience to Johnson's seminal work. --Hal Horowitz