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13 September 2010

J,J. Cale - 'Okie' (EMI)

The nightshade comes up and there's a bump-bump-bump across the sky. Okie has a lot of boogie-woogie but also some smooth sliding, and I think this is some sort of cornerstone of Cale's career, but I don't know really. J.J. Cale is a mystery to me. I'm not sure exactly where that mystery began - years of passing up his records, not really knowing much about him besides 'After Midnight', and just always assuming he's the predecessor to that whole genre of music that I heard a lot of when growing up. It was sort of rock, but for adult men in the 50s, and definitely not cool, and that's where stuff like Dire Straits and the Travelin' Wilburys get filed in my brain. But Okie was a 50p car boot sale find, in pretty great shape, so I thought I'd dive in to see what the fuss was about. If there is any fuss. There's a sunburst sheen on everything and the basslines are kinda, I dunno, electric. It's a fluid sound but there's too many shackles around everything. Shackles are okay sometimes, and these ones have a nice rust, but I can't help but shift about restlessly wishing there would either be some break-free or perhaps some quasi-romantic cynicism that I can immerse myself in. Cajun influence is there, or maybe just a song called 'Cajun Woman', cause Dr. John this is not. There's some nice vocal harmonies, a pretty instrumental title track, and not much else to get excited about. I guess I like the soft strum more than the boogie rock, though Molly Hatchet this is not, either. What the hell does 'boogie' actually mean anyway? Blues-rock with all the blues sucked out? I played this record twice when trying to write this and failed to get anywhere -- nothing left an impact, and nothing lasted, no memories, no tendencies I wanted to revisit. The weird thing is, I always thought I would fit well with this kind of music, but I guess I'm just basing that on how I love mellow adult-sounding indie rock, later Mekons records, etc. But still, it's so goddam inoffensive that I can't even get the passion to dislike it.

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