Me & Mr Johnson
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Reviewed by Joe Del Re
Few blues artists have had the cultural impact that Johnson has had. His musical catalogue is brief, encompassing only two recording sessions, and his early death is the stuff of legend, poisoned by the husband of a woman with whom he had an affair. But Johnson’s music, myth and mystery live on in the music of countless artists, not the least being that of Eric Clapton. On Me and Mr. Johnson, Clapton warmly pays tribute to this blues giant with 14 songs, including well-worn covers of “Hell Hound on My Trail” and “Traveling Riverside Blues.” The jumpy “They’re Red Hot” harkens back to a fun summer afternoon southern blues romp, while “Come on in My Kitchen” is a slow, moaning blues dirge.
Clapton sprinkles each tune with tasteful licks and a quick lead or two, but gone are the days of the epic 12-minute solo. Clapton’s voice has steadily matured with age, to become a smoky, bluesy siren of a journeyman that it is today. On the album’s better tracks, the interplay between Clapton and longtime fellow guitar players Andy Fairweather Low and Doyle Bramhall II sound as if they are on the back porch of a house in southern Mississippi. Fun and familiar, Clapton doesn’t blaze any new trails on this compilation, but he does retread some old ones with care.