Switching from a major to his own Bushbranch imprint on Gary Hoey's independent SurfDog label is, to the say least, a little unexpected from Eric Clapton, but now that he's reached the ripe old age of 67, the guitarist isn't so concerned with proving himself. On Old Sock, his 20th studio album, he sounds downright happy to be slowly dropping off of the mainstream radar, not bothering with any music that could conceivably be called pop, or even writing his own songs. Only two of the 12 songs on Old Sock are new, and he didn't write either himself; they're co-writes between his longtime right-hand man Doyle Bramhall II, Nikki Costa, and Justin Stanley, and the vaguely propulsive blues-rock of "Gotta Get Over" and cheerful lite reggae bounce "Every Little Thing" fit neatly into the sunny nostalgia offered on the rest of the record. And "sunny" describes Clapton's sound, mood, and styles here, as he favors reggae over the blues, turning both Otis Redding's "Your One and Only Man" and Taj Mahal's "Further On Down the Road" into lilting bits of sunsplash, covering Peter Tosh's "Till Your Well Runs Dry," and getting so besotted with good cheer on "Every Little Thing" he brings in a bunch of kids to sing the closing chorus, a jarring addition that treads the border of good taste. When Clapton does dip into the blues, it's on a grandiose "Still Got the Blues," a tribute to the late (and somewhat underappreciated) British blues guitarist Gary Moore, so it's clear his heart now lies elsewhere, namely shuffling along with Paul McCartney to "All of Me" and knocking out Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" as a front porch singalong. Clapton indulged in this shameless, warm-hearted celebration of the past on 2010's Eric Clapton, but that album bore all the hallmarks of a carefully considered major-label effort: the sound was immaculate and the song selection had the well-considered thrust of a history lesson. Here, he leaves all those classy trappings behind, picks up his guitar and plays a bunch of songs he likes, maybe even loves. It's not an especially compelling reason to make an album but it's not a bad one, either, and the same can be said about the experience of listening to Old Sock: it's a pleasurable way to while away the time.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine