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Riding With

the King

B.B. King & Eric Clapton

(2000, Reprise Records)

There’s a telling picture on the inside sleeve of this

collection of tasteful covers by the two blues guitar greats. Not the cover shot of Eric and B.B. looking content, satisfied and wealthy cruising in a big ol’ Caddy, but one from about thirty years earlier. In glorious black and white the two of them sit on Fender amps – Clapton’s got some fairy looking shoes on and a mop of hair, King is more dapper in a suit and ankle boots – but what you really notice is their relative youth and, most importantly, their intensity as they pick away. You don’t become a guitar god without it – that, and a lot of talent and hard work. These collaborative efforts often don’t work,

but this is a good one. It’s mostly King-penned, and other, blues classics (‘Ten Long Years’, ‘When My Heart Beats like a Hammer’, ‘Days of Old’) that have been covered by Clapton at one point or another in his storied career. ‘Three O’Clock Blues’ is one of the few slow blues on the album; mostly it is up- tempo. Backed by many of the same session vets from Clapton’s Unplugged album (Andy Fairweather Low on guitar, Nathan East on bass and Steve Gadd on drums) with a guest appearance by Jimmy Vaughan, the players are in great form. King and Clapton trade off on vocal duties and amply display the guitar work that has made both of them revered. In addition to expertly rendered blues standards

like ‘Worried Life Blues’ and ‘Help the Poor’, the duo tip their hat to Big Bill Broonzy (‘Key To the Highway’), rip up Isaac Hayes’ ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’ and end with a rousing, uplifting version of the Johnny Mercer classic ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’. If I have one minor bitch, it’s what they do with the title track. John Hiatt’s menacing snarl and cutting lyrics (“I guess no white chick is gonna make me crawl”) on his album of the same name are sanitized and made politically correct (“no pretty chick is going to…”); the version here lacks the nastiness and grit of the original. A small complaint though, for what is a damn fine album from two of the greatest blues guitarists ever.

HHH1/2 out of five

continued on page 21



Dwight Yoakam

(Reprise Records)

Dwight Yoakam’s impact on country music has

been undeniable from the beginning; this 1995 release is one of the best of his early ‘hillbilly country’ albums – as he liked to call his sound. Yoakam got his start after moving from Ohio to Los Angeles to play with acts that DEFINITELY weren’t country (punk rockers X for example, and roots-rock bands like Los Lobos and The Blasters) so to the traditionalists he wasn’t really country at all. What he did and continues to do was re-define how others saw country music and move it into the mainstream. ‘Gone’ is as good an example of Yoakam’s particular sound as any album he’s made. Produced by his guitarist Pete Anderson, the album

has solid country churners like the title track ‘Gone (That’ll Be Me)’, ‘Sorry You Asked’ and ‘Baby Why Not’. But you also get powerful laments like ‘Nothing’ - with cascading Hammond organ throughout and gut-punching horns building beautifully – and the mournful yet elegant ‘This Much I Know’, replete with marching band drums courtesy of veteran session man Jim Christie and lovely fiddle work towards the end.

‘Never Hold You’ is a near rock n’ roller with a

stinging guitar riff, taunting background harmonies and a harmonica jag smacked into the middle of it. All this in a song under three minutes: impressive, even if it isn’t country for the purists. ‘One More Night’ brings back the horns but stays true to its country roots. So does the closer ‘Heart of Stone’, with the rhythm cantering along like a trail savvy paint, the horizon fading into the western sky and Yoakam in great voice. All in all, ‘Gone’ is an excellent introduction to

the man’s many talents - he continues to record great music while pursuing a film career (he was memorable as an abusive boyfriend in Sling Blade, among other roles). The late great Johnny Cash once called Dwight Yoakam his favourite country singer – enough said.

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