Clapton Reminisces, Plots Another Crossroads Fest

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He reunited with his Cream compatriots in 2005 and has been mining Derek and the Dominoes catalog on his current tour. Now Eric Clapton is getting ready to reopen yet another chapter of his classic-rock past -- Blind Faith. During his second Crossroads Guitar Festival, July 28 at Toyota Park in Chicago, Clapton plans to reconnect with Steve Winwood for a mini-reunion of the famously short-lived band that put out one album and toured in 1969. "We've got unfinished business," Clapton tells Rolling Stone.

According to Clapton, a string of commercial successes over the past fifteen years has pushed him back to his roots -- in Cream, the Dominoes, Blind Faith and the blues in general. "I've found that a kind of useful tool -- whenever I get overwhelmed by popularity, I just tap myself on the shoulder and go back to where it all began," he says. "Because otherwise I would get caught up in, you know, what other people think of me. So I do that, every now and then, whenever I feel like I'm getting on thin ice. It's deliberate."

With hotshot guitarists Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II anchoring the band on his current tour, Clapton has been revisiting the Dominos' 1970 masterpiece Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. "Tell the Truth," and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad" plus the band's rejiggered versions of Jimi Hendrix' "Little Wing" and the blues standard "Key to the Highway" are staples of the set list. "What Doyle does is much more similar to what I do, but what Derek does is more like what Duane [Allman] did. I can connect with either one of them," Clapton says of his young tour mates. "I mean, 'Layla' sounds just like the record. It's great."

The Crossroads Festival, a follow-up to the inaugural event Clapton launched in Dallas three years ago, will feature a who's who of musical big-shots: Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Mayer, Alison Krauss, J.J. Cale and a dozen others are on the bill. (Proceeds will go to Clapton's Crossroads Centre in Antigua.) And since he'll already be in town, there's a good chance the legendary guitarist might hit Chicago blues clubs (such as Guy's Legends downtown) during the week leading up to the fest."I can't imagine I'd have an excuse not to go," he says.