June 18, 2024

JJ Cale – ‘Stay Around’ – A posthumous plate of JJ’s relaxed blues rewards the wait

BECAUSE MUSIC             26th APRIL 2019

JJ Cale’s last album was released in 2009, four years before his death and this has been compiled by his widow and his manager. Somehow JJ Cale was loved amongst devotees of the blues, yet never hugely famous. In fact, his best known songs are known through Eric Clapton’s versions – Cocaine and After Midnight. That fits his laid-back music and style. Despite being one of the world’s best guitar players, his albums never showed off with flashy solos – instead using the guitar in service of the tune. What made the playing great was its understated voice, expressive but never shouting. Solos, where they happen are like another line in the song, sung in Cale’s guitar voice.

JJ left a pile of unreleased material, since he used to keep outtakes from one album and use them on the next, depending on what fitted best. Despite being drawn from a range of sessions and therefore lacking the cohesive sound across all tracks that you might hope for, the overall feel is very much JJ Cale. A relaxed blues, grooving along nicely like the world’s best pub band. It starts as it means to go on with a song mentioning that old blues favourite, the junkyard dog, and proceeds with all the tropes you’d expect (and hope for).

Some tracks have a full band, some a smaller one, some have JJ Cale playing all the parts. Fortunately, none of them are from bits of tape swept off the floor – all were recorded ready for potential release, according to his mood. Which means that they just needed tidying up to be ready for release in Cale’s own mixes. There’s no drop in quality here and the themes are classic JJ Cale – love, fine girls, awe at a pretty woman, missing someone, with a touch of age added in If We Try, where he wants to rekindle a faded love.

All but one of these are originals and that one exception is by his widow, Christine Lakeland Cale, a long-time member of his band. They all sound much as you’d expect if you know his work and match up to the quality of the records he issued during his lifetime. If you don’t know his work, jump on anywhere for some rocking-chair-on-the-porch blues, some laid back shuffling sweetness and a bit of gravel added in for texture.

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