Picks and Pans Review: Eric Clapton: Nothing but the Blues

updated 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Wed., May 10, 10 p.m. ET)

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This special, taped in San Francisco last November, captures the guitar demigod ripping through a stark but combustible set of bare-bones blues, including an acoustic "Mother-less Child" and a version of "Crossroads" radically reworked as bouncy hand-jive. The songs are interspersed with interview segments in which Clapton expresses his affection and debt to the masters of the genre, bluesmen like Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Elmore James. The best parts of the film (although there are not nearly enough) are performance snippets of blues legends like Big Bill Broonzy, Son House, Skip James, Bukka White and T-Bone Walker.

This is a ringing tribute to an enduring American musical form, one that enjoys currency and universality because of its simple honesty.

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