Hearing Aid: J.J. Cale ‘Stay Around’

Legendary songwriter, guitarist and singer, J.J. Cale, was taken from us back in 2013, but his musical legacy will live on forever. His catalog of tunes have shaped lives, influenced musical styles and helped make the careers of more than one musical superstar. With songs like “Cocaine,” “After Midnight,” and “They Call Me The Breeze,” Cale’s storied musical catalog will outlast many of today’s contemporary artists. This fact is backed up by one, Mr. Eric Clapton, who has covered  multiple J.J. songs and has described his 2006 Grammy award winning collaboration with Cale, ‘The Road to Escondido’ as being, “the realization of what may have been my last ambition, to work with the man whose music has inspired me for as long as I can remember.”

Luckily for fans, Cale isn’t done providing new material just yet.  With the posthumous release of Stay Around, listeners are lucky to be provided with previously unreleased material that has been painstakingly compiled by J.J.’s widow, musician Christine Lakeland-Cale; along with friend and longtime manager, Mike Kappus.

The result is a 15-track gem of an L.P. that includes unheard material penned by Cale with the exception of “My Baby Blues,” which was written by Lakeland-Cale.  This track captures Cale’s cool vocal style and sets the scene of a funky, smokey Juke Joint somewhere south of the Mason Dixon Line. The multi-layered rhythm guitar is interrupted by an oh-so-pleasing fuzzy guitar lead that effortlessly weaves itself in and out of the tune.

Another Gem on Stay Around is the tenth track, a stripped down soul cry titled “If We Try.”  Lyrically, the song describes one man’s attempt at saving his relationship with his long term time lady by putting all of their mistakes in the past in an effort to give each other a fresh start.  The song features a solo Cale, starkly playing on the acoustic guitar, which creates a real feeling of intimacy, as if you were comfortably sitting in J.J.’s living room next to a fire while he performs the piece on his strumming guitar.

Another favorite is the wonderfully produced “Long About Sundown,” the album’s 13th track. They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery. If you are familiar with Eric Clapton’s long musical career you know that there was fundamental shift in his playing in the mid to late 1970s. A good portion of that distinctive sound can be attributed to the fundamental core of Cale’s musical aesthetic. Sundown perfectly illustrates those similarities with an arrangement that could be right off of Clapton’s 1974 release 461 Ocean Boulevard.

J.J. Cale’s life in music may be over, but his long musical career was one that he lived by on his own terms. His rejection of the big corporate musical industry was the nexus of the man’s music. Truth, honesty and a genuine love for the music that he readily embraced, yielded an enviable body of work that has forever changed contemporary music for the better. Stay Around is a perfect summation of that incredible work by a legendary artist.

Key tracks: Lights Down Low, Tell Daddy, Long About Sundown