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Eric Clapton: Clapton

E.C. is here.

To title an album with simply an unadorned name is an assertion of identity, and this — El Clappo’s first solo album in five years — completes a circle begun with his eponymous debut released way back in 1970.

It combines blues-rock at its most modal and swampy — ominous, hallucinatory dreamscapes shimmering with muted menace and a distinct Nwarleens vibe, as if Dr John had produced Slim Harpo — with jaunty Big Bill Broozyesque ballads, rags’n’ hollers garnished with Allen Toussaint’s fabulous piano.

Plus the opener, Travelin’ Alone, evokes (and borrows a lyrical verse from) Canned Heat’s On The Road Again, and River Runs Deep could be Alabama 3 at their most chilled, while Crazy About You Baby and Rollin’ And Tumblin’ do Muddy Waters much honour.

It ain’t exactly a party record – not unless you throw seriously weird parties – but it exudes major atmosphere. There’s nothing stiff or academic about EC’s new blues: he’s always connected with the soul of the blues but now he’s finally found its heart. As musical self- reinventions go, it’s a triumph: when was the last time Clapton sounded like he was having this much fun or cared so much about his music?