Eric Clapton

Me and Mr. Johnson (Duck/Reprise)

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Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson go back a long way. As a young Turk in the blues world of the '60s, Clapton covered the Delta master's "Rambling on My Mind" with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and "From Four Till Late" on Cream's debut LP. His new tribute to Johnson brings this admiration full circle and confirms one more time Clapton's command of the blues. He and his band conjure an enthusiastic party atmosphere on 14 Johnson classics, with piano and harmonica getting nearly as much solo space as ol' Slowhand. More than anything, the disc is a reminder that, track after track, Clapton remains one of the best white blues singers around.

But Me and Mr. Johnson could have used a bit more intimacy. Johnson recorded his powerful but regrettably small body of work solo. A totally one-man tribute from Clapton would have been a reach, for sure, but a couple of solo tracks would have made for a nice finish. That said, the session is a bashing good time, and Clapton's showcasing of this material brings it to a wider audience than it would find otherwise. Hopefully, some of those new fans will take the next step and check out the master himself.

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