Born and raised in Tulsa, J.J. Cale, with his band, recorded at least two albums that are now considered great classics of the blues-rock genre. Back in the early ’70s, the popularity of J.J. Cale was practically inexistent. Best known for the covers made by Eric Clapton of two songs (“After Midnight” and “Cocaine“), Cale over time developed a unique style: a particular fusion of delta-blues, rockabilly, country, swamp rock, and even a little bit of jazz, known as Tulsa Sound. In 1971, taking advantage of the fact that Clapton just recorded a cover of “After Midnight”, after several years of playing casual gigs and sending demos to labels, Cale recorded his first album Naturally.
The tracklist is smooth and fluid. The songs openly embrace this feeling of quietness, clear southern skies, and dusty roads. Throughout the 30 minutes of runtime, the listener is continuously immersed in this mellow mood of laid-back crunchy solos and almost talked vocal lines. There is no momentum throughout the album: the dynamics revolve around the same three-blues-chords played on a low-tempo essential rhythm backbone.
Cale is no a guitar virtuoso: his playing is stripped-back and basic and, at the same time, capable of conveying this feeling of quiet acceptance of all uncertain and problematic moments that life presents to people, trying not to evade from this loneliness but to embrace it to taste a drop of the blues itself.
The production is spare and simple, but with some elegant choices that enrich the album: in “Woman I Love” the horns make the record shift for the length of a song to a more rhythm and blues sonic side, or in “Magnolia” the acoustic guitars and keys create alone fitting background for the phrasing and the whispers, and in “Clyde” the strings suggest the kind of spaghetti-western style of the track.
Slow, raw, and unpretentious, Naturally can count among its more substantial virtues its capacity to put the listener in this specific mood every time it’s played.
You can find Naturally on Spotify.
Below, the “Magnolia” music video on YouTube.