J.J. Cale Roll On

Although Cale's previous effort, 2006's The Road To Escondido, was a long-overdue collaboration with Eric Clapton (who scored two of his biggest hits with Cale's "After Midnight" and "Cocaine"), it did little to change the focus of this legendarily stoic singer-songwriter. Roll On finds Cale back in familiar territory, working largely on his own in the studio, and sounding virtually the same as he did when he made his breakthrough in the early '70s. For an artist with such a distinct vision, that's a good thing. No one can shape a groove like he can and create music so profoundly affecting out of such simple elements. A prime example is "Cherry Street," a basic 12-bar blues song, but in Cale's hands it becomes an irresistible ride that ends all too soon after a few minutes. The similarly fashioned "Strange Days" even contains a strong hint of African rhythms, an aspect of Cale's sound that has never been as evident before. By that point, Cale has firmly cast his spell, making a return guest appearance by Clapton near the end of the record on the title track almost an afterthought. For all of his ability, Clapton remains an apprentice in Cale's shadow, and Roll On shows that the master is still in complete control. (Rounder)