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Gibson Recomends J.J. Cale Rewind: Unreleased Recordings

Russell Hall

These previously unreleased recordings — made mostly during J.J. Cale’s formative years at Shelter Records in the ’70s — capture beautifully the Tulsa sound that so deeply impacted Cale devotees such as Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. A mix of bayou blues, sinewy swamp-rock, and the occasional country hoedown, the CD also showcases the laid-back style that shaped Cale’s songwriting, vocals, and guitarwork. With an ES-335  as his go-to instrument, Cale, even early on, was a master of economical licks and rhythms, spurning excess at every turn. Songs such as “Since You Said Goodbye” and “All Mama’s Children” are flavored with sexy, undulating grooves that whisper their way into your head. Likewise, ballads like the transcendent cover of Leon Russell’s “My Cricket” and the gospel-y “Guess I Lose” sport lead playing that shades rather than intrudes. Other high points include a twangy, pedal steel- and fiddle-driven cover of Waylon Jennings’ "Waymore’s Blues”; “Lawdy Mama,” which sounds like a Cajun-spiced version of “After Midnight”; and “Bluebird,” a one-and-a-half minute rockabilly gem that could pass as a classic Sun Records demo. Backing players include some of the finest session musicians of the day, including Tim Drummond (bass), Spooner Oldham (organ), Jim Keltner (drums), and Bobby Keys (saxophone). Teamed with Cale, they give Rewind a cohesive quality that’s often lacking on compilations such as this one.