This glorious autumn weather seems to have gone on forever. Approaching the fag-end of April and we’re still getting cool hazy mornings opening up into amber afternoons.
Today offered yet another deeply varnished red-gold platter. I got home after some errands (that may or may not have facilitated the acquisition of a few records) and thought “It is without doubt time for a beer.”
So before the sun dipped its hat and the mercury sidled below back porch levels, I pulled out the canvas recliner and thought about who’d sit with me and sip a cleansing ale.
No contest really. Have a chair, JJ Cale.
Tell us about your fifth album, JJ.
Guess the man prefers to let the music do the talking, so I’ll fill in the gaps.
Released in 1979, 5 has a spare, stripped back sound. That may seem odd for a fella who doesn’t exactly rival Phil Spector for sonic excess, but this one is even simpler. The bluesy minor key songs rock comfortably like, um, a comfortable rocking chair on, er, a back porch.
Things don’t get much more frantic than the mid-paced opener “Thirteen days”, with Billy Cox (Hendrix) on bass. The opening lines set a tone of low-key debauchery that seeps through the album.
Thirteen days on a gig in the South
We’ve got enough dope to keep us around
I always heard it as “we’ve got enough dope to keep us all out”. Much of a muchness, I guess. Later in the song the boys are smokin’ cigarettes and reefer, drinkin’ coffee and booze and trying to get into the jeans of the local waitress. Rock and roll on the road, on a budget.
Sometimes we make money, sometimes I don’t know
Now whether the waitress is the subject of the second song, “Boilin’ pot” is moot. But he is singing about her catching his eye and whispering in his ear “let’s do it right here”. Any comment, JJ?
No, I thought not.
When I played guitar, I learned and strummed “I’ll make love to you anytime”. Badly, but with an enthusiasm born of wishing rather than experience. It’s a classic ascending chord progression and it grooves along slinkily. Heard once and instantly memorised, it has never worn out its delight. The guitar solos (wah-wah in the fade-out) are understated and high-class.
“Don’t cry sister” jogs along with a soulful swing, “Sensitive kind” has a little bit of arranging to freshen the sound. Vibes and some strings. Real nice.
That’s side one.
I’ll fetch a couple more beers.
Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday it’s been too long
Amen comrade. [Clink bottles]
This is the almost-fast chugging JJ Cale sound. Infectious groove, superb little solo that would’ve had Mark Knopfler weeping into his beer, Carl Radle (Derek and the Dominos) on bass duties. Nice little conversation between guitar and piano. Super entry to the weekend.
“Lou-easy Ann” has a barrelhouse roll befitting the punning title; “Let’s go to Tahiti” is a holiday throw-away with everything played by JJ. Pretty lightweight. As is “Katy kool lady”. Katy may be kool, but she’s also wafer thin.
If you’re getting the impression that the second side isn’t quite as strong, you’d be correct. Although the guitar lines in “Fate of a fool” are real nice. You payin’ attention, Mr Knopfler? ‘Course you are.
Fortunately things end well, as “Mona” takes us out with a triple-time love song. JJ is joined (not for the first time on this album) by Christine Lakeland and those warm-breeze strings again. It’s a gentle song about languid carnality in a hectic world.
Mona, she comes on a Friday
She stays into the night
Mona, she comes to my bedroom
To keep my spirits high
So, as the sun sets on this particular Friday afternoon, we say thanks for your company, JJ.
We may not have Mona to raise our spirits, but we have 5. There may be a few songs that aren’t quite up to par, but overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable slab of JJ Cale-ness that could easily be pulled out on a sunny afternoon—spring, summer, autumn—to while away a modest thirty-eight minutes with its chilled grooves and liquid guitar breaks.