Blue s .................................................................................................

John Wheatcroft ex­am­ines one leg­endary blues player pay­ing trib­ute to ar­guably the most in­flu­en­tial blues­man there has ever been, as he looks inside Eric Clap­ton’s al­bum, Me And Mr John­son.

Guitar Techniques - - Learning Zone -

John Wheatcroft looks at Eric Clap­ton’s take on another blues legend, Robert John­son.

con­sid­ered by eric Clap­ton to be the most im­por­tant mu­si­cian in the his­tory of mod­ern mu­sic, the grav­i­tas of this as­ser­tion hits home when you con­sider that John­son only recorded 29 songs dur­ing two ses­sions in Texas in 1936 and 1937; only two pho­tos ex­ist and almost ev­ery as­pect of his life is shrouded in mys­tery; even the cause of his death is un­cer­tain - poi­soned by a jeal­ous hus­band of one of his many lovers? Who knows?

Clap­ton had al­ways as­pired to an al­bum in­ter­pre­tat­ing John­son’s ma­te­rial. In 2004, while record­ing orig­i­nal ma­te­rial, he and the band hit a cre­ative block, so they be­gan to record a cou­ple of John­son’s just to get the cre­ative juices flow­ing. Once they be­gan this process, how­ever, it be­came ap­par­ent that the mu­sic they were pro­duc­ing was rather spe­cial, and should be pur­sued fur­ther. Once Eric over­came his ini­tial re­luc­tance to take on a chal­lenge of such per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance, he ded­i­cated him­self to ab­sorb­ing as much of the vibe and essence of his idol as pos­si­ble.

And a damn fine job of it he does, too. Clap­ton’s play­ing has feel, tone, touch and flair. While his mu­si­cal per­son­al­ity re­mains in­tact, his play­ing def­i­nitely takes on an air of re­fine­ment and stylis­tic authenticity - less blues-rock and more blues-blues, with ex­cel­lent bot­tle­neck, acous­tic pick­ing and ex­pres­sive vo­cal de­liv­ery through­out. The idea was not to em­u­late the orig­i­nal record­ings, so Clap­ton rein­ter­prets this ini­tially solo ma­te­rial in a band con­text, with Andy Fair­weather-Low and Doyle Bramhall II on guitars, Nathan East on bass, Billy Preston on keys and Steve Gadd on drums.

The solo that fol­lows is based on two cho­ruses of a 12-bar blues. The se­quence is a con­ven­tional I-IV-V 12-bar, although watch the quick shift be­tween I to V and back again in bars 7 and 8. Most of the phrases are two bars in length but you’ll find the­matic de­vel­op­ment as the solo pro­gresses. What struck me here was all the ex­pres­sive de­vices in Clap­ton’s play­ing. He never plays more

When I play lead, it doesn’t re­ally re­late di­rectly, but the essence of what I do re­ally hinges on what I orig­i­nally felt about Robert John­son. Eric Clap­ton

than a note or two with­out adding some kind of in­flec­tion - a bend, a grace-note ham­meron, slide or curl. Has your play­ing the same kind of three-di­men­sional ex­pres­sion and de­liv­ery? Why not learn this solo as writ­ten, and record your­self along with the back­ing track? Be crit­i­cal but kind to your­self, to see which ar­eas of your ex­pres­sive de­liv­ery you like and which facets need at­ten­tion or de­vel­op­ment. And, as al­ways, en­joy!

Clap­ton never plays more than a note or two with­out some added in­flec­tions

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