Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival: Album Review

The fifth Crossroads Guitar Festival captured on live recordings, including multiple star guests performing live at this stunning 2 day event led by our hero Eric Clapton.

Release date: 20th November 2020

Label: Rhino

Format: 3CD / 2DVD / Blu Ray / 6LP

Everyone, who knows anything about rock, blues or music for that matter appreciates Eric Clapton as one of the world’s all-time greatest guitarists and amongst his peers as a great collaborator. Over the years this reputation has allowed him to assemble and attract many virtuoso musicians on his tours. Understandably, and like any of his age the desire to tour is diminishing but his Crossroads Guitar Festival, of which this is  the fifth, is a more than adequate replacement.

Many legendary musicians and vocalists joined him in September 2019  in the city that hosted the first-ever Crossroads Guitar Festival, Dallas Texas, with proceeds going to support  The Crossroads Centre in Antigua: a treatment and education facility founded by Clapton for the chemically dependent.

What an amazing array of artists there are too. My only bug bear being it is always held in the States. Assuming these great artists are reluctant to travel to the UK is probably the reason but I’m sure Mr Clapton could assemble equally talented artists for a similar cause this side of the Atlantic!

So who will you meet at this extravaganza? Such stalwarts as Albert Lee, Robert Cray,( I Shiver) Andy Fairweather Lowe, Gary Clark Jnr and Buddy Guy are all familiar sights on the British stage. His ex Yardbird pal Jeff Beck makes an appearance too with an unexpected choice of Brian Wilson’s  Caroline No from Pet Sounds amongst his set.

The British artists are Peter Frampton who duets with Eric on a stunning While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and James Bay who throws in a couple including a mournful Hold Back The River. The versatile Bonnie Raitt pairs up with  Jimmie Vaughan for a bluesy Baby Please Come Home and with Sheryl Crowe for Everything Is Broken.

This is a truly mouthwatering ensemble of artists and even the lesser-known ones to us give outstanding performances. Vince Gill, who gave a highly creditable performance with Eagles, carries on this high standard with a short set including a rendition of Tulsa Time from the early solo  Clapton album  Slowhand.

If you are looking for the cream of Clapton songs on the setlist you’ll have to be satisfied with Badge,  but amongst his choices from his later career are Layla, Wonderful Tonight and Lay Down Sally. On the second day of the festival he delivers an awesome tribute to Prince with Purple Rain.

On this 3 disc extravaganza, I was introduced to the fabulous talents of Leanna La Haves with a creditable version of Say A Little Prayer, the soulful Marcus King Band and intricate blues guitarist Sonny Landreth.

There are many other surprises too but the most pleasant one is that of Johnny Lang, who I saw as a teenager and was regarded as a 15-year-old prodigy when he found worldwide success with his second album Lie To Me. Here he pairs up with Buddy Guy for an incredible guitar duet. This performance is an example of quite a few on this album who drop in for a virtuosic cameo.

 Clapton’s intention for the Crossroads Guitar Festival is to have fun and perform together with his contemporaries and modern artists for the benefit of a good cause. Although many of these artists will never work together again, the message of enjoying working with the elite of British and American blues comes through loud and clear. 

Slip this 3CD set into a partner’s or parent’s Christmas stocking and you are guaranteed a merry time whatever happens this year……well at least for 3 hours 48 minutes…

Here’s Badge from the set:

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