REVIEW: Eric Clapton – Old Sock

Eric-Clapton-Guitar-2013

Artist: Eric Clapton
Album: Old Sock
Genre: Blues
Label: Bushbranch

Releasing an album composed almost entirely of covers might seem like a strange decision. It runs the risk of implying that you’ve run low on ideas or – even with two new songs included – that you’ve become jaded and cynical and would rather indulge yourself than offer anything new. Yet, there’s nothing untoward or manipulative about Eric Clapton’s Old Sock. It is an indulgent album, but it’s a warm, lengthy, and luxuriant one that feels more like an intimate session by the fire than anything self-aggrandizing. It has a superbly evoked autumnal atmosphere with all the songs playing out in gentle swaying rhythms over crisp vocals. At this stage of his career, it actually feels like a nice personal move from Clapton. The covers are all songs that have moved him and his take on them is as respectful and dignified as can be anticipated from such a skilled artist. His real achievement here may be in taking such a bold, sprawling project (replete with over thirty musicians and contributors) and shaping it into something that feels at once intensely personal and very involving.

Clapton makes full use of his contacts book, as the likes of Paul McCartney and Chaka Khan both pop up here in guest performances. The overall air is one of bluesy familiarity, revelling in gentler, dulcet tracks and the pleasure that can derive from intimacy and simplicity. Most of the songs are folk, blues, or jazz in origin and such is maintained in Clapton’s treatment. “Further On Down the Road” and “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” are vibrant offerings, rich in atmosphere and feeling. The backing vocals and strings add some life and colour to the swaying rhythm. “All Of Me” is equally doe-eyed and dulcet, using a spirited piano to build a captivating air.

Clapton’s signature guitar work is a vivid presence on Old Sock. It brings edge and flair to some of the quieter tracks and enhances others with a sense of intricacy and reflection. His familiarity with the instrument and distinctive playing brings a sense of the personal to the covers and helps to distinguish them from the originals. “Til Your Well Runs Dry” is more probing and fixated than some of the other tracks, for instance. It’s not exactly surly, but there’s a frankness and sharpness to it that distances it from the others. “Still Got the Blues” is a dramatic, sweeping song that speaks more through its sumptuous guitar work than its lyrics. Long stretches of contemplative strumming help to give the song presence, as the words are relatively sparse and the classical instruments more dreamy and emotive. “Born to Lose” has a similarly ghostly quality. It feels barer than the others and Clapton sings with a grittier tone. The guitars and backing vocals are wispily elegant but there’s a darker side to this, just animate in the folds of music.

Only two of the songs are original, but they fit quite neatly into Old Sock’s mellifluous sound. Both bring more vibrancy and energy to the album without distancing themselves too much from its overall warmth and sunny outlook. “Gotta Get Over” has a chirpier tempo and is thus more engaging, though there’s a thoughtfulness to it that blends right in. “Every Little Thing” is equally rhythmic, and brightly lit by a chorus of backing vocals. Both tracks manage to sound sturdier and more rigorous than the covers, injecting a flourish and humour that helps to define the record more clearly as Clapton’s.

While this isn’t the most groundbreaking of releases, it’s a very comfortable one, and something that’s utterly enjoyable for it. Clapton offers a snapshot of some of the more meaningful songs in his life thus far and renders them with trademark precision and elegance. This is content to wallow in its own sense of self and purpose and asks similar indulgence from its listeners – but the breezy joys offered won’t disappoint.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

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  • I’ve been a lifelong fan of Eric Clapton and I couldn’t be more pumped about his new release. Slow hand has never skipped a beat and I can’t believe it. His voice still sounds fantastic and his playing is as good as ever! Definitely gonna purchase this.

  • Alan

    has a Delaney and Bonnie sound to it. Good to be back in that “grove”