Sometimes I lament being born un-fashionable late to the party (musically speaking). Think of all the mega-monumental music moments (M.M.M.Ms or Quad Ms as I like to call them) that happened prior to March 24, 1981. There are at least 2,361,475 M.M.M.Ms that l tragically missed out on due to something cosmically out of my hands.
Luckily, I hung around long enough to live in a time when literally the almost-entirety of modern music is at my fingertips and eardrums. (What a world!). We all should take advantage of this truly marvelous reality by diving into the past from time-to-time and digging up some new (to us) musical treasures. Sometimes you get lucky and you don't even have to go a-diggin'.
Recently (see above date), I marked another rotation around our nearest star and gained an extra digit on my age scorecard. One unexpected gift that blew my way on this celebration o' birth was a well-loved LP by the title "Naturally" by J.J. Cale. It came via my amazing, wonderful, supercool ex-(current)-hippie Aunts Linda and Donna, who gave me a cherished piece of their personal vintage stash.
One thing I truly believe is that music is one of the greatest and most personal gifts one can give/receive. If someone you know and trust gives you music as a gift because it makes them think of you... listen carefully and feel immensely special.
I'd never heard of J.J. Cale, but yet I KNEW him. He's one of those under the radar influencers. A musician's musician. Loads of songs he wrote went on to fame when sung by folks that weren't him. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waylon Jennings, Kansas, Dr. Hook, Johnny Cash and John Mayer (and the list goes on quite extensively...) all benefited from the songs written for Naturally. But where he intersects with me personally is perhaps his biggest supporter/beneficiary: Eric Clapton.
Slowhand was one of the guitarists I quickly glommed onto after picking up the guitar. It was a quick jump from my guitar-catalyst Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin...to Jimmy Page in the Yardbirds...to Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds. Many of my high school afternoons were spent working out the riffs from Clapton's 60s/70s catalog. "Sunshine of Your Love," "Layla," "Cocaine" and "After Midnight" were some of my faves that my fingers still naturally strum to this day when a guitar is hanging around. It just took me 20ish years to learn that those latter two Clapton mega-hits weren't penned by Clapton at all. "Cocaine" and "After Midnight" are J.J. Cale joints y'all! #mindblown.
This is the type of Musical Archeology that I really love...because music is like those ancient cities that are built on the ruins of other cities. You keep digging down and you keep finding more cities and civilizations buried and forgotten about. Everything is built on something else. Your favorite musician had some favorite musicians and good odds say that J.J. Cale is probably buried down there somewhere if you look hard enough.
J.J. Cale's debut album is chill to the max. Understated, mello, lazily-funky at times. It includes tracks you've probably heard before like "Call Me the Breeze," "Magnolia," "Clyde" and "After Midnight." Much to my surprise, "After Midnight" in the hands of it's creator is a slow burner instead of Clapton's barn-burner version... and it still works! It's the perfect way to stay grounded before throwing yourself into yet another hectic crazy week.
So regardless of whether you were around in 1971 when Naturally first came out, go ahead and chill with the sounds of J.J. Cale - one of rock music's great behind-the-scenes-influencers.
(And thanks Linda and Donna for sending the Breeze my way!)