J.J. CALE > Roll On

Written by March 1st, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Rating: ★★★☆☆

There’s a songwriting philosophy that J.J. Cale has always seemed to follow, and it’s his latest album title: Roll On. Cale’s lean, minimal country-blues grooves are as constant and natural as a heartbeat. And yet, on this album, he also sounds like a man readying himself to stop for good. Four of the songs treat final concerns: “Former Me” remembers a distant younger self, “Leaving In the Morning” comes off like a living will, “Old Friend” savors meaningful friendships and “Bring Down the Curtain” is about timing an ending well. It’s not surprising that Cale would write about such things. He is 70, after all. The songwriter/guitarist holed up alone in the studio to record several tracks, and some suffer from an uncomfortable blend of organic (his guitar playing and cool, grainy vocal delivery) and synthetic (texture-less drum machines). “Fonda-Lina” is the worst offender. But “Down To Memphis,” “Oh Mary” and the title track prove Cale’s enduring ability to balance reflection with hard boogieing.


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