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"Me and Mr. Johnson" -- Clapton pays tribute to his biggest influence on new album

Eric ClaptonSeminal bluesman Robert Johnson has been dead for more than 60 years, yet his musical legacy remains as influential as ever. Now, in the 21st century, Johnson's music seems destined to hit the charts once again with the pending release of Eric Clapton's new album, "Me and Mr. Johnson," on Duck/Reprise Records.

Clapton has covered Johnson's songs throughout his career, both solo and with bands including John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Cream. For the first time, Clapton has devoted an entire recording to Johnson's compositions, including "Love in Vain," "Hellhound on My Trail," "Me and the Devil Blues" and "Come on in My Kitchen."

"It is a remarkable thing to have been driven and influenced all of my life by the work of one man," Clapton said. "And even though I accept that it has always been the keystone of my musical foundation, I still would not regard it as an obsession; instead, I prefer to think of it as a landmark that I navigate by, whenever I feel myself going adrift. I am talking, of course, about the work of Robert Johnson."

Clapton covers 14 of the 29 songs written and recorded by Johnson over the course of his brief career in the 1930s. Clapton is joined by longtime band members including Andy Fairweather Low (guitar), Doyle Bramhall II (guitar), Billy Preston (keyboards), Jerry Portnoy (harmonica), Nathan East (bass) and Steve Gadd (drums).

The CD will be released in the United States on March 30 and outside of the United States on March 24. On March 2, digital copies of four songs -- "When You Got a Good Friend," "Come On In My Kitchen," "Milkcow Calf Blues" and "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" -- can be purchased on iTunes. The later song also will be available to download as a single from other services as well.

You can listen to four of the songs by clicking on the links below. You will need to have either QuickTime or Windows Media Player to listen to the music steams.

"When You Got A Good Friend"

QuickTime (all speeds)
Windows Media (dial-up)
Windows Media (high speed)

"Come On In My Kitchen"

QuickTime (all speeds)
Windows Media (dial-up)
Windows Media (high speed)

"Milkcow Calf Blues"

QuickTime (all speeds)
Windows Media (dial-up)
Windows Media (high speed)

"If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day"

QuickTime (all speeds)
Windows Media (dial-up)
Windows Media (high speed)

Etta James returns to rock and roll on new release

Etta James Legendary vocalist Etta James has returned to her roots -- her rock and roll roots -- for her current release, "Let's Roll," on Private Music.

"Over the years, I've sung jazz and blues and pop but I'm really a rock and roller at heart," said James. "I was comfortable producing the album because I come from rock 'n' roll and once you get that groove you never forget it."

James has enlisted the help of various blues and rock songwriters, including Delbert McClinton, who co-wrote two songs, "Wayward Saints of Memphis" and "Somebody to Love." Other contributors include Bekka Bramlett, Gary Nicholson and Kevin Bowe.

The recording features members of James' longtime touring ensemble, The Roots Band, which includes sons Donto on drums and Sametto on bass, along with guitarist Josh Sklair. All three helped produce the album along with Etta in 2002 at her Fort Athens Studios in Riverside, Calif.

"Let's Roll" is James' first studio recording since her collection of jazz standards, "Blue Gardenia." Last year, she released the live recording, "Burnin' Down the House," which earned her Grammy and W.C. Handy nominations.

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