Personnel: Eric Clapton (vocals, guitar); Andy Fairweather-Low, Doyle Bramhall II (guitar); Jerry Portnoy (harmonica); Billy Preston (keyboards); Nathan East (bass); Steve Gadd (drums).
Audio Mixer: Mick Guzauski.
Liner Note Author: Eric Clapton.
Eric Clapton and the blues have been inextricably linked dating back to his mid-1960s stint as a string-bending phenomenon in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. A decade after the release of his blues homage FROM THE CRADLE, Clapton's ME AND MR. JOHNSON pays tribute to his hero Robert Johnson. Rounding up a stellar backing crew, including Andy Fairweather-Low and Jerry Portnoy (both of whom appeared on CRADLE), Slowhand approaches the Johnson canon with a relaxed and confident touch.
Applying liberal amounts of slide and fuzz guitar, this English rock legend saunters along fare such as "Traveling Riverside Blues" and "Love in Vain," time-honored Johnson classics better known through renditions by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, respectively. Portnoy's unobtrusive harp provides subtle accompaniment to Clapton's heartfelt playing, be it the swirling dirge "Hell Hound on My Trail" or the harmony-soaked "Come on in My Kitchen." The proceedings are also enhanced by the Hammond organ and piano work of sideman Billy Preston, whose trips up and down the eighty-eights give added punch to songs like the rollicking "32-20 Blues" and the barrelhouse "They're Red Hot."
Rolling Stone (4/15/04, p.150) - 4 stars out of 5 - "When he finds Satan on his doorstep in 'Me and the Devil Blues,' you can hear in Clapton's deep, scarred howl that he is confronting an old acquaintance."
Rolling Stone (p.142) - Included in Rolling Stone's Top 50 Records Of 2004 - "In this superb, all-Johnson program, Clapton celebrates the Delta poetry that moved him to reinvent blues guitar..."
Entertainment Weekly (4/2/04, p.65) - "[C]lapton sounds reinvigorated in these 14 songs by crossroads soul-salesman Robert Johnson..." - Rating: B+
Uncut (4/04, p.102) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[A]t 58, he sounds like a man who has faced down more than a few canine devils of his own."