Eric Clapton
" Guitar Festival 2010"
2 DVD Set

Clapton's Crossroads A Swan Song Or A Stop on the Road?

Will the third Crossroads Guitar Festival, captured on the two-DVD set Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010, be the last? Evidently, Eric Clapton was quoted as saying that prior to the event, but after observing his smiles and all the fun everyone had, that doesn't seem to be the case. Near the end of the eleven-hour guitar endurance test at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, Clapton was quoted saying, "This was going to be the last one, but I don't think it will be. We're going to have to do it again."

Oh, Yeah! Mr. Clapton is looking slightly rotund these days. He's sporting a two- to three-day beard and a moustache - plus a sparkling Rolex - yet throughout the day the sixty-five-year-old E.C. sat in with various groups looking and sounding remarkably energized at all times. In fact, "Promised Land," the first track on this recording, is with Sonny Landreth, and do they both tear this one up!

Highlights on Disc One include Joe Bonamassa singing and playing with the Robert Randolph Family Band warping through Don Nix's "Going Down." It's nice to see Greg Piccolo and Doug James' horns sitting in with Hubert Sumlin, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan on "Killing Floor" and "Six Strings Down." I could have done without ZZ Top, though, but my biggest surprise here was Guy Clark Jr.'s intense groove on "Bright Lights" with Doyle Bramhall and his band backing Clark. Check out Clark who takes two sizzling solos that will not disappoint!

There's an interesting lot of guitarists on three songs led by Vince Gill, with Keb' Mo', Albert Lee, the great James Burton, and the jazz guitarist Earl Klugh. Everything fires for this quintet of guitar virtuosos, which is of no surprise given the talent assembled. They do a tremendous job on Clapton's "Lay Down Sally" and you will love Gill's comment, "We're going to twang things up a notch now." Indeed!

Earl Klugh performs solo on "Angelina" but raises the thermometer with a full group performance of "Vonetta" where it's Derek Trucks' drummer Yonrico Scott, who's got incredible jazz chops and marvels the crowd with his playful soloing with Klugh and Company's riffs. Klugh is an interesting Clapton choice for this festival. He's no slouch. Check out some of his work with George Benson.

Speaking of Benson, George would also be a great inclusion should there be another Crossroads Festival. I've heard him jamming alongside B.B. King and, trust me, Benson can play the blues and still is a world-class guitarist.

Rounding out Disc One is John Mayer's trio with Pino Palladino on bass and Steve Jordan on drums. Two songs are performed: Mayer's "Who Do You Think I Was," which segues into a nice Hendrix jam and a funky "Ain't No Sunshine" that kind of falls short on soul.

Disc Two starts smartly with a Mike Mattison song performed by the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi band. Mattison is on vocals, but this is not Derek's band. Nonetheless, the band is outstanding and as per usual Derek delivers the goods. Warren Haynes joins the band as they roar through Delaney and Bonnie's "Coming Home," where I thought Clapton might jump in like he did with D&B four decades ago. Pretty much the same band stays on during Haynes' "Soulshine." Then David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos add fire to the Allman Brothers' "Don't Keep Me Wondering." There's more from this lively bunch as Chris Stainton sits in on keyboards for nice rendition of "Space Captain" just like he did with Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs and Englishman.

Buddy Guy is next, with Ron Wood and Jonny Lang, performing a smoldering "Five Long Years," but they don't connect with the magic as they try to funk out on the Stones' "Miss You." Jeff Beck tears through "Hammerhead" with his new band, which is different from the crew he used on the previous Crossroads set, and everyone's right on. Beck's second tune is an odd orchestral song titled "Nessun Dorma." While amazingly dramatic and perfect for Jeff's wizardry, it did not fit the Crossroads program.

Then it is Clapton time with the great Steve Gadd back on drums and Willie Weeks on bass with Stainton on a funky take of the show's anthem "Crossroads." Clapton then calls on Citizen Cope to sing on "Hands of the Saints." Neither Cope nor this tune did much for me. There's a jazzy take at "I Shot the Sheriff" with a very tasty Clapton solo. Then Eric calls for his old buddy Jeff Beck (both from the Yardbirds, but not at the same time) for a nifty and concise "Shake Your Money Maker," which I felt was far too short. Steve Winwood joins Clapton's band for a great "Had to Cry Today" with Winwood on guitar followed by a sizzling "Voodoo Child" with Winwood in his more familiar spot behind the B3. Clapton is definitely at his day's best and literally tears down the house with a remarkable solo. Winwood reverts back to the guitar on an excellent version of "Dear Mr. Fantasy" more than holding his own trading leads with E.C.

The finale spot is reserved for B.B. King performing - what else - "The Thrill is Gone" with B.B., Clapton, Cray, and Vaughan all sitting in. It's a pretty nice version, too. And of course then everyone who previously performed jumps in for one triumphant nod of the hat to the undisputed King of the Blues, B.B. King. Note: During this last B.B. song I also noticed Johnny Winter joining in, but unlike the last Crossroads video, he did not get a segment on this current edition.

This is a first-class video. Both the audio sound and video clarity are amazing, as are a vast majority of the performances. Bill Murray is back again as emcee showing up in horrific yet humorous Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Jimi Hendrix costumes. What makes this DVD heartfelt and with a nod to down-home blues are the interview segments. Hubert Sumlin speaks about visiting Muddy Waters' home; Buddy Guy talks about Earl Hooker; Derek honestly talks about not knowing until recently about Mad Dogs & Englishman, and of course about Duane Allman.

Additional noteworthy segments include John Mayer explaining how Stevie Ray Vaughan connected the dots as his bridge to the blues; Susan Tedeschi reminiscing about Delaney & Bonnie; even J.J. Cale talking about the all too often forgotten bassist Carl Radle, who was also with Derek & the Dominos, Leon Russell, Mad Dogs & Englishman, and others. Lastly, it was nice to see a little jazzier side to this festival. Earl Klugh chats about his guitar heroes Django, Charlie Byrd, Kenny Burrell, and Charlie Christian.

My only complaint is the sorely missing musician credits which are always welcomed in the liner notes. But, all in all, there is something here for everyone - some more so than others - but that's what makes music so very special and individualistic. Besides, it's Christmas time, everyone, and wouldn't this two-DVD box set make several of your family members and friends smile should they find this box set under the tree? Here's to Clapton rocking on for at least one more Crossroads Guitar Fest. Play on and on forever!

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at Bob maybe contacted at:

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