J.J. Cale – Naturally (1971)
I predict a major reappraisal of the work of J.J. Cale when he shuffles off this mortal coil. (I bet the same thing happens to his fellow Oklahoma native, Leon Russell too, but that’s another story). For over 40 years Cale has remained on the periphery, making his distinct atmospheric Tulsa Blues, showing no signs of wanting to court further fame or fortune via endless touring or media interviews. Even in this era of fashionable ageing-rocker-mega-tours, Cale has always remained a kind of mystery man, despite a cult status that could easily be capitalised on. Instead, he has chosen the quiet dignity of going about his bluesy business outside the parameters expected of musicians of his ilk. He has become a timeless enigmatic Mr. Cool that the Claptons and Knopflers can only envy and do covers of. And this sense of myth and mystery that surrounds the man is in the music too. His music is drenched in sunsets and midnights and empty roads and lonely rooms, populated with lovers and losers and gypsies and junkies, fuelled with that incisive Zen wisdom that makes The Blues the pure art-form that it is. I fell in love with his music back in 1997, and it was due to this, his first album, the aptly titled: Naturally. The album is half an hour of simple structured brilliance. “Call Me the Breeze”, “Call the Doctor”, “Don’t Go to Strangers”, “Magnolia”, “Crazy Mama”, “After Midnight”, you can’t go wrong. Every song is a part of the magic. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of blues, I’d urge you to listen to this, because ‘the Tulsa Sound’ that Cale came to personify is a unique mix of Blues, Country, Rock’n’Roll, Jazz and Folk, and its highest moments are even greater than the sum of its parts. It’s just great music, plain and simple. His clean guitar tone; his weathered, whispered vocals; the soft swampy rhythm behind…damn, it’s good stuff. And when J.J. sings the loaded portent: ‘After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out…we’re gonna cause talk and suspicion, give an exhibition, find out what it is all about’, well, who wouldn’t want to wait up for that. I’ll brew us some strong coffee, we don’t wanna miss a thing.
by Decoy Spoon