While Clapton’s name would be reason enough to pick up this gem, The Road to Escondido, featuring him and J.J. Cale, is a dual effort through and through. Providing authentic and soulful blues music throughout the album, the synergetic pair cannot be differentiated—either vocally or stylistically.

This is not a bad thing. While the majority of songs on Escondido were written by Cale, you’d never be able to tell. The sound here is very traditional, very smooth—exemplary is “Sporting Life Blues,” a nice, modern twist on a classic track. He complements Clapton's mellow style seamlessly; the kind that made Clapton's name synonymous with "the king of modern blues" so many decades ago.

Sharing the tone of Bob Dylan’s latest (2006’s Modern Times), wisdom and experience are lyrically prominent on Escondido. “I’m hard to thrill/ Nothing really moves me anymore/ There ain’t nothing you can show me/ That I haven’t seen before,” Clapton sings in “Hard to Thrill,” one of two songs he wrote for the album and a terrifically poignant expression of his graceful style.

The album runs a bit overlong at 57 minutes, but any songs that could appear tacked-on are within the first third; “Missing Person” doesn’t hold a candle to the hits “Who Am I Telling You” and “Don’t Cry Sister,” near the end, for instance. Yet the album keeps its cool throughout. There’s no climax, but it doesn’t need one; there’s no dead time, because it’s guaranteed that if you like the first track, you’re bound to like the rest. Songs feel weak only by comparison.

So sit back, relax with a glass of red wine, and enjoy the overwhelming satisfaction that comes with the cool blues. Long live the king.

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