Eric Clapton's fiery rock guitar playing has always been tempered by the roots music from which he arose, the blues. Now Polydor has culled Clapton's '70s recordings and come up with a two-CD set, which finds the guitarist paying explicit tribute to the blues tradition and such mentors as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Freddie King. Long before his hit UNPLUGGED recording, Clapton could be found playing acoustic blues. Among the non-electric highlights collected here are "Before You Accuse Me," an outtake from the BACKLESS sessions, and a gritty version of Leadbelly's "Alberta." "Mean Old World," recorded during the making of LAYLA, finds Clapton and Duane Allman exploring their shared love of country blues. On this cut and others, Clapton's voice has the unpolished feel of Dylan's folk singing, giving the Brit more credibility as an American roots performer.
The live CD in the set has, oddly enough, a more intimate feel that the studio one. Perhaps it is because Clapton has an audience, but from the opening "Stormy Monday," with its rippling and righteous guitar playing, through to the ending "Further On Up the Road" (which features Freddie King on guitar), this set feels like a concert from start to finish. While much of BLUES can be found on CROSSROADS 2, those who love the low-down side of Clapton's career will want to put this set in a prominent position.