took an extended break after the ignoble flop of 1997's Junction Seven
, resurfacing on his own indie label Wincraft six years later with About Time
. Where his last major-label effort fell prey to many of the trappings of a veteran artist gunning for the charts one last time -- an overly slick Narada Michael Walden
production, cameos from Des'ree
and Lenny Kravitz
, songs that were too slick and unmemorable -- About Time
scaling back things considerably, keeping himself to a trio featuring him on a Hammond organ, drummer Walfredo Reyes, Jr.
, and guitarist José Piresde Almeida Neto
. Occasionally, congas and timbales and other percussion flesh out the rhythm, while Karl Denson
plays flute or saxophone elsewhere, but these are subtle additions to a loose, laid-back, intimate album that harks back to Traffic
, even if it is never as freewheeling or unpredictable as that band. Winwood
's ambitions with About Time
are pretty modest, actually -- to cut R&B-based tunes that bring in jazz and Latin influences and give everybody the chance to jam. Though they meander a bit too much at times, the jams are warm and appealing, and while the songs are a little indistinct, the feel of the music is good, which counts for a lot, since the last two slick solo albums felt distant (surely a byproduct of records that were designed to be Roll with It
, Pt. 2). If Winwood
's voice is now a little rough (which comes as a surprise), it nevertheless fits the scaled-down, relaxed atmosphere. And if individual songs aren't necessarily memorable, they don't necessarily need to be -- the feel is the thing here, and while it isn't first-rate Steve Winwood
, it does feel like a welcome update from an old friend, which, after several years of waiting and several uneven records, is enough.