Back Home

As this title to Eric Clapton's new album has it, the guitar giant has now returned back home from his recent meetings at the crossroads with Robert Johnson (Me and Mr. Johnson, Sessions for Robert J) — and the new album is a far more restrained, tasteful and slickly produced environment. Shaking hellhounds off your trail is one thing, but domesticity, one of Back Home's central themes, presents its own trials. "Now Mama's gettin' snappy/And Daddy won't change no nappy," this married father of three young girls sings on the sprightly opening track, "So Tired." (Must be the nanny's day off.)

At sixty, Clapton is deeply grateful to be sober and settled; the specter of his four-year-old son Conor's tragic death in 1991 (the subject of his 1992 ballad "Tears in Heaven") lends weight to the celebrations of "the sweet, simple moments" of family life in the title track and "Run Home to Me." Similarly, his lighthearted rendition of George Harrison's "Love Comes to Everyone" suits the album's mood and poignantly acknowledges his deceased friend. On "Revolution," a sinuous reggae shuffle, Clapton and his deft band (which, on various tracks, includes the likes of drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Billy Preston and guests such as John Mayer, Robert Randolph and Steve Winwood) burn off Back Home's polish and heat the track to a seductive simmer.

Alas, if you're looking for Slowhand to ignite the pyrotechnics, forget it. He's busy out in the backyard, playing with the girls. But as he sings on "So Tired," "Sometimes I think that I'm too old for this/I must have better things to do/But when it's time for my good-night kiss/My dreams have all come true."