For his twenty-third studio album, I Still Do, legendary blues guitarist Eric Clapton revisits his musical roots while pondering a potential end of the road. With only two original tunes out of the album’s dozen tracks, and only one written by Clapton alone, it’s easy to wonder if Clapton is running low on things to say. Granted, with selections from Bob Dylan, J.J. Cale and Robert Johnson‘s respective catalogs, he’s certainly choosing material of the finest pedigree.  With recent health problems causing some distress and a lifetimeof rock n’ roll excess, it’s no wonder that the music of his latest release feels like the work of a weary man. That said, there seems to be a little fire left amid all the smoke and the signals of a potential retirement on the near horizon.

Helping capture the guitarist’s vision was legendary audio guru Glyn Johns, who’s production work on Clapton’s seminal Slowhand album helped it become one of Clapton’s creative and commercial peaks. Johns has had a hand in capturing iconic music from more than just Clapton, producing and engineering landmark music from Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Who, The Rolling Stones and many more. To help the visual aspect of the piece, Clapton again turned to a previous collaborator, artist Sir Peter Blake, who designed perhaps the most recognizable and beloved album artwork of all time: Sgt. Pepper’s by The Beatles.

Clapton’s selection of artists to cover shows a tendency towards familiar ground. Opening the disc with a perfectly distorted guitar riff that feels as if it’s carved from the core of the blues itself, Clapton shows off the soulfulness that has earned him a place atop any “All Time Greats” list. His work on the opening track, Leroy Carr’s “Alabama Woman Blues,” seems a little formulaic in the context of his renowned body of work.

The Bob Dylan penned “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” uses the backing vocalists to their best effect, merging Clapton’s beloved clean tone in a way that stirs memories of fiery leads past. Clapton’s most engaged performance on the record is a rollicking take on Robert Johnson’s “Stones In My Passway.” Hearing him tear into the work of his declared idol sets the rest of the more dispirited performances that make up the balance of I Still Do in sharp and slightly unflattering relief.

The two Clapton originals, “Catch The Blues” and “Spiral,” do add something to the Clapton catalog. Though reminiscent of numerous other compositions, “Catch The Blues” shows that there’s still some some different avenues not exhausted. “Spiral” follows in that vein, with a stellar use of flat notes and sharp fills that counterpoint the gruff and grumbley voice that has spawned legions of imitators. A call and response moment in the middle of “Spiral” surely sends chills down the spines of his devoted fan base.

Watch the video for Spiral below:

Closing I Still Do with the classic standard “I’ll Be Seeing You,” Clapton’s acoustic work shows that, though his spirit might be weary, it hasn’t fully faded.  When he sings “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you,” it’s a clear signal of what’s on his mind.  If Clapton does choose to take his final studio bow, he will have capped one of the most remarkable music careers in modern history, But something about the promise of the two originals on the album has his loyal admirers hoping for at least one encore before the final curtain.