Just got the 2 disk Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013. It’s a mix of blues, rock and R&B from Clapton’s triennial event recorded at Madison Square Garden. The festival is a benefit for Clapton’s Crossroads Centre drug and alcohol treatment facility. I assume proceeds from the album and DVD go to the Centre as well. It has an impressive roster, from The Allman Brothers to Buddy Guy to Taj Mahal. BB King is noticeably missing, though. He played at the concert but for some reason is omitted from the CD.
Clapton opens and closes the album, starting with the favorites Tears in Heaven and Lay Down Sally. Both good covers, and a nice appetizer of a 2½ hour feast of some ravishing play by some of the best guitar players of the last 40 years. Booker T. continues disk 1 with the classic Green Onions, joined by Keb’ Mo’ and others. They really get into this one, and it ends up lasting 7:26, much longer than the pop version, with Booker et al. playing inspired and spirited R&B. Easily the highlight of the first disk, though, is another cover of a 60s hit, John Mayer and Keith Urban doing a bluesy rendition of the Beatles‘ tune Don’t Let Me Down.
Sonny Landreth & Derek Trucks start disk 2 with an up tempo Congo Square, about the Sunday gathering and music of slaves in old New Orleans. John Mayer & Doyle Bramhall Jr. follow with an excellent cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Change It. Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ team up for a nice delta blues number, Diving Duck Blues, followed immediately by a nine minute monster jam by Gary Clark Jr., When My Train Pulls In. Jeff Beck then comes in with the Irish rebel song Mná Na Héireann (Women Of Ireland). Great transition throughout.
The end is Clapton, sounding better than as he has in years. He joins Keith Richards on Key to the Highway, with Richards doing the vocals. Then there’s Gin House Blues with Andy Fairweather Low, and two solos, Got to Get Better in a Little While and Sunshine of Your Love. All seem pretty apt for the subject at hand. Clapton and his team have put a lot of effort into this, and the result is inspired and coherent and a memorable performance by all involved.