The “J.J.” stands for Jean-Jacques, did you know that?
Thanks to the magic of the Internet and a spot of good luck, I managed to get myself into the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz last night to see the great J.J. Cale. (Without conscious intent, I seem to be moving alphabetically through my list of Bands I’ve Not Yet Seen; a few weeks ago it was Cake at the Fox Theatre, next maybe it will be Calexico?) Since it was a will-call deal there is no ticket stub, and in a few days I’ll probably forget it ever happened; so I wanted to jot down a few impressions while I still have them.
J.J. Cale is low-key with a lowercase “l.” If you look up “mellow” in the dictionary, you see his picture, except he’s got his head down and you can’t really say for sure if it’s him. Onstage he looks like he’s putting out almost no effort at all, though clearly a lot of work has gone into his songs and a lot of skill goes into his playing. He spent most of the show half-sitting on a comfortable stool, coaxing lazy shuffles and tasty licks from his guitar and singing, sort of. He doesn’t sing the songs so much as insinuate them. There are blues singers, blues shouters, and blues talkers, but there aren’t many blues whisperers like J.J. Cale.