Thursday, September 19, 2019

Power: Clapton's Blues Power

purchase [ Eric Clapton ] first solo album

IMHO, Clapton's first solo album stands above most of his other solo work. It was a break-out production - away from Cream and a first step towards his "god" status. Clapton supported himself with friends new [to us] (Bonnie and Delaney ) and old (Steven Stills, Leon Russell ). His sound was considerably more mellow and more mature than is earlier raw/raucous Cream and equally raw John Mayall fare. In addition to being primarily self-composed.

The <Eric Clapton>/solo album includes more than one piece that I would place in my pantheon of top rock songs:
-the no-vocals <Slunky>
-the cover of <After Midnight>, bringing (not for the only time) J. J. Cale to a larger audience
-<Bottle of Red Wine> [see this]
but more generally, this was a different kind of rock guitar for that day and age. Along with- but on a different planet from Jimi - the style "bent" our perceptions of electric guitar rock.

But, for the purpose of the <Power> theme, there's only one from that album that seems to fit: Blues Power. Co-written by Leon Russell.

I wonder if the song is really blues. Clapton hints at my doubts in the lyrics:
"Bet you didn't think I knew how to rock and roll...."
But the lyrics also include:
" matter if it's fast or slow"

I've scoured the Internet in search of an answer: "Must a blues song be slow"? I always assumed as much. There's also the question of the sound/environment: even if the tempo is right, if the guitar is too raucous, can the song still fit the "blues" bill? Doesn't it have to "cry"? I don't have the answer. But this song has the power.

Something a little different with the same name: (Albert King)


I'm sort of sick of power at the moment, and, were you in the UK, you'd know why, with our parliament having to take our prime minister to court over his actions. You know. I'm guessing a degree of schadenfreude must apply, gratitude due to our nation, that we may have an even bigger clown at the helm than yours, and you're welcome. A race to the bottom. So any contribution I make to this theme will resolutely steer clear of that sort of power, sticking instead to gas and electric. (Who knows, maybe even a hint of wind or, in a twofer, solar.)

The Delines arose from the ashes of Richmond Fontaine, a group that achieved more adulation than fame, perhaps more in the U.K,. where they were favourites of the music monthly, Uncut, forever a champion of americana. Led by songwriter Willy Vlautin, also a writer of superb southern gothic noir, they brought joy to my life over many years, from the mid 90's over the next two decades. Always interested in the underside of society, there was, and is, a seamlessness between where his songs end and the novels begin. I guess the band didn't make such a grand living, lauded in Europe, little known at home.

I loved the ramshackle tightness of the band, the lowlife tales perfect for his plain but perfect vocal stylisations. So, sort of underwhelmed by the idea of another singer, a female singer, becoming the preferred mouthpiece for his work, initially I thought to give the Delines a pass. Big mistake.

Singer Amy Boone has one of those country voices that just epitomise the best of the genre, a slightly less abrasive Bobbie Gentry. What I didn't know was that she had had form in the dying days of Richmond Fontaine, her sister Deborah (Kelly) having sung female vocals on their last album, Amy reproducing them on the live tour. So when the first album, 'Colfax', came out in 2014, any doubts became immediately extinguished. However, in a twist even more grisly than any Vlautin lyric, not so long after, following a round of touring, Boone was involved in a car accident, in 2016, significantly and seriously damaging both her legs. End of the band? Thankfully no, Vlautin having sufficient faith to wait the 3 long years for recovery. Earlier this year saw their 2nd release, 'The Imperial', consolidating on the earlier sound, less steel, but with added mariachi-tinged trumpet. The featured song, at the head of the pice, comes from the debut, and carries gorgeous evocations of 'Midnight Train to Georgia.' Here is a song from 'The Imperial' with that added joy of trumpet.