“Fame elevates your ego to the point where you start believing your own bullshit.” -J.J. Cale
It’s hard not to like J.J. Cale. The guy lived a simple life, spending his last two decades out in Valley Center east of Escondido. And this was a guy Neil Young considered to one of the greatest guitarists he’s ever heard!
Cale was an absolute guitar virtuoso, but he was a master with subtelty. He was an artist, and he fully understood that less is often more. I think this is something his longtime friend & collaborator Eric Clapton struggled with. Cale’s voice isn’t all that well regarded, but I think his very laid back vocals are the perfect reflection of the man’s humble, reclusive personality. Music is often best when it is human & imperfect.
J.J. Cale’s music blended Oklahoma & California perfectly. He delivered some top-notch, swampy, Okie Country/Blues boogie, yet his music is so freakin’ relaxing! His laconic vocals mix very well with the Southern California sunshine. Perfect for an Okie pool party.
And the man knew how to write a timeless song. Every track on this album & most of his other albums are absolute winners. Naturally, his 1971 debut LP has quite the dreamy charm to it. On some of the tracks Cale is playing along with a drum machine, giving this a nice & laid back “Indie” vibe. The man is famous for being the writer of Eric Clapton’s hits “After Midnight” & “Cocaine”, but he definitely deserves recognition for being an all-around masterful artist. You can definitely call Eric Clapton a guitar god, but he wasn’t an ‘artist’ like J.J. Cale. I’m admittedly not a big fan of Clapton, but it was pretty darn cool that their 2006 collaboration album is called “The Road To Escondido”. Nothing says avoiding the Hollywood spotlight of fame quite like “The Road To Escondido”. Valley Center is now on the map.
J.J. Cale’s Naturally (Shelter Records, 1971) is available here at Folk Arts for $12. Got two original copies. Plus a copy of the Troubadour LP from 1976, which might even be a better album considering the phenomenal musicians that joined Cale on that one. You can find them in my New Arrivals section, and this stuff sounds awfully nice on original vinyl.
Shout out to The San Diego Troubadour for this reference article: