Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2010

Various Artists

When Clapton calls, the faithful come a-running. For the third year in a row, Eric Clapton, once equated with God, staged the Crossroads guitar festival over the summer in Chicago. Pretty much the cream of the guitar-slinging crop came out to pitch in and help keep the guitarist’s rehab clinic, Crossroads Centre in Antigua, rolling. Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood, ZZ Top, Ronnie Wood, Buddy Guy, John Mayer, B.B. King, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and many others played sets over the 11-hour concert — the best of which is captured on the Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2010 DVD.

Returning as emcee and comic foil, Bill Murray’s off-beat, irreverent sense of humor fits the mood of the event as a procession of guitarists come out and do their thing. Clapton joins slide master Sonny Landreth for a smoke-stakin’ stroll through “Promised Land.” A short trip through the virtues of the blues, featuring Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy, Warren Haynes and Landreth, opens the door for a virtual blues summit to follow. Robert Randolph and Joe Bonamassa serve up a spicy “Going Down” before ceding the stage to Robert Cray, Jimmy Vaughn and Hubert Sumlin for Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.” ZZ Top mops up the mess with a couple of dusty reliables, “Waiting For The Bus” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago.”

Next-generation players Doyle Bramhall III, John Mayer, Keb Mo’, Derek Trucks and Jonny Lang keep the blues heat wave going. Along the way, Sheryl Crow and Susan Tedeschi harmonize sweet melodies, Bert Jansch adds some folksy Irish flair, and Vince Gill introduces a little bit of country, and Earl Klugh touches on elements of jazz. Murray opens the second disc with an announcement regarding the absence of the Allman Brothers Band due to Gregg Allman’s liver transplant. Fortunately, ABB’s Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, along with friends like Susan Tedeschi, and David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos, deliver a handful of soulful blues numbers. “Midnight In Harlem,” a swinging take on Delaney and Bonnie’s “Coming Home” and Hayne’s own “Soulshine” keep the show on pace and heading into overdrive.

It’s the home stretch of the second disc that’s ripe with major guitar heroes like Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck and Clapton himself. Guy lays down the law with Ronnie Wood and Jonny Lang anchoring the breaks on “Five Long Years” and the Stones’ “Miss You.” Beck comes out in space boots and a silver arm band and slaps the audience upside the head with songs from Emotion & Commotion, “Hammerhead” and “Nessun Dorma.” No strolls down memory lane for Beck just yet.

Clapton, whose been popping up on stage through the day, takes over with “Crossroads,” in an obvious nod to the festival. He invites Citizen Cope, Beck and Winwood for a whirlwind of crowd-pleasers — “Shake Your Money Maker,” “Voodoo Chile” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” among them. The disc closes with B.B. King leading an all-star assemblage of the day’s musicians for a spirited “The Thrill Is Gone.” A double-disc set with royalties benefiting the Crossroads Centre, Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2010 is a stunning overview of guitar players of all ages and disciplines, with blues at the center and the affable Eric Clapton, more seemingly the king of British blues of guitarists than the Lord Almighty, making it all happen.

~ Shawn Perry

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