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Album Review

J.J. Cale, 'Roll on'

February 23, 2009
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Blues
J.J. Cale Roll on
Rounder
ESSENTIAL "Leaving in the Morning"

They say the truly great musicians constantly grow and evolve. But when you're a masterful songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist like J.J. Cale, why grow when what you've been doing works so beautifully? Over a 50-plus-year career, Cale has had his biggest successes with others, such as Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd, covering his deceptively simple and authentically American songs. "Roll On" finds Cale back in vintage form. You can practically feel the tour bus hitting the open road in the title track. The classic Cale sound - sly, understated vocals buoyed by some tasty, judicious blues guitar licks and a shuffling boogie - is in full flower on "Down to Memphis," "Cherry Street," and "Oh Mary." Themes of mortality and loss permeate "Bring Down the Curtain," "Former Me," "Old Friend," and the elegiac, twangy "Leaving in the Morning." It's the experiments that just don't work here. The kiss-off "Where the Sun Don't Shine" is marred by some mechanical, Alan Parsons-style keyboards, while the Latin disco-flavored "Fonda-Lina" is an unfortunate, queso-y mess. (Out tomorrow.)

CHRISTINA PAZZANESE

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