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Rock & roll is an unforgiving profession. We eat our young, disregard the old and always want more of everything. Aging gracefully while remaining relevant in the rock game is the hardest trick of all, and JJ Cale might be doing it better than anyone.
"I remember when I made my first album [1972's Naturally], I was 32 or 33-years-old and I thought I was way too old then," laughs Cale. "When I see myself doing this at 70, I go, ‘What am I doing, I should be layin' down in a hammock.'"
For some, music is a hobby, or if they're lucky a job or a passion; for JJ Cale it's not even a choice: music is all he's ever known. He's a lifer. Born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the guitarist, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer has been doing this for over fifty years and on February 24, 2009, Rounder Records will release Roll On, Cale's sixteenth album. Comprised of 12 new songs, including the previously unreleased title track recorded with Eric Clapton, Roll On is Cale's first batch of new solo material since 2004's To Tulsa and Back and comes on the heels of his gold selling (platinum overseas) 2006 collaboration with Eric Clapton, The Road to Escondido, which also earned Cale his first Grammy®.
In addition to the always appealing notion of another Cale record, what makes Roll On special is that it actually breaks new ground. Parts of this album sound like classic Cale and could have come out 30 years ago while other songs find him traveling in completely new directions. The banjo picking and earthy feel of "Strange Days," along with the pedal steel of "Leaving In The Morning," sound like they could have come off the Naturally sessions, while the crunching guitar on "Where The Sun Don't Shine" is in the vein of "Cocaine," and the gypsy funk of "Fonda-Lina" could be the sophisticated cousin of "Travelin' Light" from 1976's Troubadour.
You want proof that Cale still has a few tricks up his sleeve? Just press play on the new record and all of a sudden there's JJ Cale jazz-scatting for the first time ever on disc opener "Who Knew," and later he's loping along behind a restrained jazz piano on "Former Me." So, where did this new inspiration come from? "When I'm singing in the bathtub I usually do that [scat]," says Cale. "When I got through with [‘Who Knew'] it made me laugh, so I went, ‘Well that's good.' Me doing the scatting is kinda funny."