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J. J. Cale is a kind, unassuming god
February 6, 2010 4:22 PM   Subscribe

J. J. Cale is one of those artists* who has been more influential among other musicians than well-known to the public. Here are some live performances of J. J. and band playing Clyde, Cajun Moon, After Midnight, Magnolia, Drifter's Wife, Birds' Song, and Tijuana. Today's Nilsson posting made me think that fondness for these characters is one of the things that binds me to the MetaFilter community.

* I'm thinking of John Fahey, Harry Nilsson, Son House, Skip James.
posted by dylanjames (21 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
One of the best. My favourite: Let me do it you.
posted by ageispolis at 4:44 PM on February 6, 2010


How could you leave out Cocaine? Of course it was Clapton who made it famous, but still, it's Cale's song.
posted by dw at 5:28 PM on February 6, 2010


Thanks DJ. Hearing Cale for the first time actually made me angry that I had waited so long to stumble upon his albums. And what about "Call Me The Breeze?"
posted by GamblingBlues at 5:33 PM on February 6, 2010


I love Troubador so much. All during college it was one of my favorite chillout albums. Travelin' Light is one of my faves, along with Ride Me High. I never liked "Cocaine" quite as much although I seriously prefer his version over Clapton's, pace God's immortal riffs.
posted by dhartung at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wonderful. Does anybody know what kind of guitar he's playing in the After Midnight video? I've never seen one like it.
posted by belvidere at 5:40 PM on February 6, 2010


dw - you're right -- I should have included Cocaine, even though it's far from my favorite JJ song, it's definitely his most popular, thanks to the many covers. Clapton did the most to bring JJ's songs to the limelight, but I think Mark Knopfler "gets" JJ better -- the first Dire Straits album, especially the songs before "Sultans of Swing", could be from the master himself.
posted by dylanjames at 5:56 PM on February 6, 2010


On the off chance that this is actually anyone's first exposure to JJ, my favorite albums of his are "Naturally", "5", "Troubadour", and (it's hard to believe that in 1989 it was considered his comeback album at the time) "Travel-Log". He won his first Grammy recently on a collaboration with Clapton, but I skipped that one. Writing this, I think I'll pick up his most recent, "Roll On" at my friendly local music shop soon.
posted by dylanjames at 6:12 PM on February 6, 2010


I'm a big Cale fan, and I think his album To Tulsa and Back (the last prior to the recent Clapton collaboration) is his overlooked gem. Awesome record.
posted by quarterframer at 6:25 PM on February 6, 2010


You know who turned me on to JJ Cale? Widespread-freakin-Panic. Travelin' Light. Then I realized he'd written a bunch of other songs I knew. Turns out I like his originals better than most of the covers.

Another artist I'd put on your list is Townes Van Zandt.
posted by lost_cause at 6:37 PM on February 6, 2010


Clapton and Knopfler are great, but one listen to J J Cale and you know you're listening to a key influence.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:57 PM on February 6, 2010


lost_cause: yes! to Townes Van Zandt. To the list, let's add Tim Buckley, and in electronica NEU! (I have MeFi to thanks for showing me the amazing Krautrock documentary).
posted by dylanjames at 6:59 PM on February 6, 2010


You guys are listening to the wrong Cale records. Okie is the one you are looking for.
posted by Camofrog at 7:35 PM on February 6, 2010


I loves me the Cale. The two-disc anthology is worth every penny. Hell, every album has gold in it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 PM on February 6, 2010


Wonderful. Does anybody know what kind of guitar he's playing in the After Midnight video? I've never seen one like it.

I think it's the Harmony guitar he talks about here:
There’s a famous Harmony guitar you once owned that Clapton has talked about, that you paid $50 for when you were very young. Do you still have it?

I do. It's pretty much inoperable now. The airlines messed it up pretty badly. That was one of the reasons I kept modifying it, or trying to fix it. In those days I didn't know as much about modifying guitars. I took the back off it, because an airline had crushed it. Also, it was an acoustic guitar, and we were starting to play bigger gigs, and I needed to play louder. This was before piezo pickups. When I put a magnetic pickup on it, I would get up to a certain volume level, and then it would feedback. In those days there wasn't a good way to prevent that. One reason I took the back off the guitar, and put a rod through it, was so it wouldn't generate feedback any more.
He appears to be showing it off in this video.

Oh, and there's a page about his "$50 Harmony Guitar' here.
posted by mmoncur at 10:34 PM on February 6, 2010


dw - you're right -- I should have included Cocaine, even though it's far from my favorite JJ song, it's definitely his most popular, thanks to the many covers.

Yeah, didn't mean to be snotty about it, but I don't think you can talk about Cale without mentioning Cocaine -- or how important he was to Clapton's sound in the latter half of the 70s. Much of Clapton's backing band on those 70s tours were, like Cale, from Oklahoma.

Another artist I'd put on your list is Townes Van Zandt.

Oh hell yes. (previously)
posted by dw at 11:26 PM on February 6, 2010


Thanks mmoncur. I love JJ Cale. He's among the handful of great rock guitarists whose sound is instantly indentifiable; the listener knows who's playing after just a few notes--like Richard Thompson or Neil Young.
posted by belvidere at 5:07 AM on February 7, 2010


Great interview with him in the latest issue of Fretboard Journal.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:54 AM on February 7, 2010


The cover of "Naturally" was imprinted on my mind from an early age. Is there a more Southern Gothic, long dusk image in all of popular music?

He toured so rarely, and cancelled shows so readily, that few have actually seen him live.

I once had plans to see him when he played Toronto on the early 90s. But those plans fell through in a spectacularly stupid and bluesworthy manner I'm still regretful about, so that's all right then.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:18 AM on February 7, 2010


my favorite JJ Cale song

I hate clapton and am impartial towards Knopfler, but jj can light my fire so hard. It's the way he swallows his vocals I guess, or his utterly tasteful and understated guitar playing. It's the best kind of Yacht rock: funky, smooth, mellow, but with more than 50% terror and impending doom underneath the chrome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:45 AM on February 7, 2010


I can count myself among the lucky few who have seen him live...my (now) wife and I sat front row at the Backstage in Seattle (for only $12 extra, you got a dinner and front row seats! This was around 1990), and saw a show of a lifetime. Just JJ and two of his friends playing for what seemed to be hours. The whole audience was in a protracted swoon.
posted by dylanjames at 8:38 PM on February 7, 2010


I like J.J..

I also like John.
posted by ovvl at 3:32 PM on February 10, 2010


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