Critical Voices: Eric Clapton, Old Sock

March 14, 2013

As the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Eric Clapton has little left to accomplish. Already described as one of the most influential guitarists of all time, the British rock and blues artist can look on his 51-year career with a certain pride, but he does so with tremendous gratitude directed toward the early influences that brought him to the top of the music world. Clapton’s 20th studio album, Old Sock, pays tribute to these giants by respectfully drawing on their repertoire while injecting his unique Clapton-esque style into every note.

A cover of Taj Mahal’s “Further On Down The Road” immediately establishes a pleasant reggae vibe underscored by echoing backing vocals, occasional dobro riffs, and a leisurely harmonica solo. Clapton’s own unmistakable guitar dominates the latter quarter of the song, providing a smooth contrast to the otherwise rough, though not unwelcome, instrumentation.

This reggae pulse comes in swells that add a dynamic quality to Old Sock. Peggy Lee’s “The Folks Who Live On The Hill,” for instance, slows the tempo significantly resulting in a jazz staple made irresistibly mellow by every participating instrument, from the warm vocals and blues guitar chords to the accompanying accordion and strings.

The beat returns in full force on “Your One And Only Man,” a cover of Otis Redding’s soul ballad. A harmonica and Clapton’s steady, driving guitar back the gruff verses and powerful bluesy growls. Even so, the track only hints at the 67-year-old singer’s true capabilities.

Clapton saves his full vocal prowess for his two new tracks. “Gotta Get Over” is a proper rock ‘n’ roll anthem that rivals that of the most practiced blues vocalists with inviting tones complementing the signature clean guitar solos. “Every Little Thing” features the same vocal range while adding a legato style that allows Clapton’s voice to ring through the verses before backup singers enter into an energetic call-and-response dialogue over a resurging reggae rhythm.

Though Eric Clapton waxes nostalgic about the melodies of his past for much of the album, he does not allow the reminiscence to diminish the overflowing virtuosity bursting from the surface of the LP. The two masterful originals blend well with the rest of the material, allowing Old Sock to create a comfortable atmosphere that, while incredibly familiar and still aging, fits perfectly.

Kirill Makarenko
Former Assistant Leisure Editor

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