JJ Cale Decides to Stay Around

NEW RELEASE: JJ Cale’s latest album comes out nearly six years after the Tulsa Sound icon’s death. Featuring 15 previously unreleased tracks on two LPs, the album is vintage Cale.

YouTube has me pretty well figured out.
Using what I can only assume is witchcraft and sorcery, the video sharing app has developed an uncanny ability to determine what I want to see and hear.
A staple in my recommended viewing section is a roughly 90-minute video of JJ Cale and Leon Russell at the Paradise Studios in Los Angeles.
In addition to Cale, who is playing a very JJ Caled-up $50 Harmony guitar, and Russell, on a more customary Hammond B3 organ, the band includes Ambrose Campbell on congas, Bill Boatman on guitar and bass, Jimmy Karstein on drums, Larry Bell on piano and vocals, Marty Green and Pat “Taco” Ryan on saxophone, Nick Rather on bass and Shamsi Sarumi on percussion.
Rounding out the band on acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, cabaza and backing vocals is Cale’s collaborator, muse and partner Christine Lakeland Cale.
In April, Lakeland Cale did something for which she is uniquely qualified: she released her late husband’s 15th studio album, “Stay Around.”
Posthumous albums raise red flags for me. Except in rare cases when an artist dies between the completion of an album and its release, as was the case with Leon Russell’s “On a Distant Shore” in 2017, it can feel like a money grab; scavengers picking clean the carcass of a legendary career.
But JJ Cale is another rare case.
Famously reclusive after moving to California in 1980, it was in the studio where the Central High School graduate was truly in his element.
“The studio was definitely one of his most comfortable situations to be in,” said Lakeland Cale in a recent interview promoting the album’s release.
A former Air Force electronics technician, Cale had a passion for the technical side of music. “John enjoyed working on guitars and recording,” she recalled. “That was a constant.”
That passion for recording, however, didn’t extend beyond the studio. He was never interested in media appearances or touring to promote an album. A piece of well known JJ Cale folklore is his record company telling him, “your album is a hit, you gotta get out there and promote it,” and Cale responding, “if it’s already a hit, why do I need to promote it?”
In other words, he loved recording, he didn’t love making an album.
This is further evidenced by his last studio album, “Roll On,” in which the title track was 34 years old when the album was released in 2009. His laid-back style is great for guitar grooves, not so much for getting music out in a timely fashion.
Given these facts, it’s no surprise that the two-LP Stay Around doesn’t sound like a collection of leftovers and outtakes. This is a complete, expertly mixed and produced album.
I’m not going to offer a review, except to say, if you love JJ Cale, you’ll love this album. Never one to rebrand himself or change his sound, this is vintage Cale doing what he’s been doing since Johnny Cale and the Valentines entertained Tulsans in the 1950s.
I could talk JJ Cale all day, but I really should devote some of this column to the artists who don’t have Grammys and platinum records on the wall. Yet.

SKYLINE FESTIVAL: From left, Kurt Neilson, Gene Collier and Craig Skinner perform at Tom Skinner’s Skyline Festival in 2017. This year’s Skyline Festival is Aug. 18 across three venues at 18th Street and Boston Avenue in Tulsa.

Tom Skinner’s Skyline Festival
More than 45 Oklahoma musicians converge on 18th Street and Boston Avenue for a festival honoring the late great Tom Skinner on Aug. 18 from 12:30 – 10:30.
Bands like Pilgrim, The Damn Quails, Randy Crouch & Flying Horse Band feat. Paul Benjaman, and Tom Skinner’s own Science Project Band donate their time and talent for this annual fundraiser for Red Dirt Relief Fund (RDRF).
This year, nine of the performing musicians have benefitted from RDRF, a non-profit organization that helps Oklahoma musicians in need. RDRF has granted more than $160,000 to musicians in the state since 2012.
Kicking off the festival at 12:30 on Aug. 18 is the VIP Gospel Brunch at Burn Co. BBQ featuring John Fullbright and Friends sharing “the gospel according to Tom Skinner.”
As this column goes to press, there are still VIP Brunch tickets available.
Advanced tickets are $12 (not including VIP Brunch) or $20 at the door. Go to reddirtrelieffund.org/skyline for more information and tickets.
This is great music for a great cause. I hope I see you there!

Horton Chili Cookoff
Grab a few non-perishable food items or a winter coat and get to Cain’s Ballroom Nov. 9 for Horton Records 6th Annual Rock ’n Folk ’n Chili Cook-off.
This is a great event every year, featuring chili from some of Tulsa’s best restaurants, as well as a stellar lineup of local bands.
This year, I’m especially excited about the Tribute to Tulsa Music featuring Chris Combs, Paul Benjaman, Jesse Ayock, John Fullbright and more. The best Tulsa musicians of today honoring the best Tulsa musicians of the past? Yes, sign me up.
Get your tickets at hortonrecords.org, and don’t forget to bring a donation. Giving back to the community in the form of food and winter clothing while enjoying an all-ages musical event of this caliber is the ultimate win-win.

MisFEST, MOJO Fest, Medicine Stone and Stone River are a few other upcoming festivals, each offering an opportunity to enjoy numerous local and regional bands. It’s the best way to discover what you want to see and hear, no witchcraft or sorcery required. All you’ve got to do is keep searching, keep listening.