Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Smoking hot contemporary blues from Joe Bonamassa

Serendipity! I picked up a rather unpromising looking disc called “Black Rock” from an artist of whom I had never heard, Joe Bonamassa. I came across it while I was browsing the library racks and only picked it up because I realized I had never borrowed that one before. I put it on and within the first few bars it was clear he was a contemporary blues artist. Not usually my favorite genre (Black Keys excepted, of course). Then I really started to dig into the music and discovered breadth and depth, soul and technique. I was as pleased as I was surprised.

Joe Bonnamassa was born in Utica, NY. He is a 4th generation musician whose parents owned a guitar shop. He showed an early aptitude for music, somehow got hooked up with guitar virtuoso Danny Gatton for a short time, and actually opened for B.B. King at the age of 11. King said of him, “This kid’s potential is unbelievable. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface.” Bonamassa cites King as an influence along with guys like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, but likes the English take on the blues better: John Mayall, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. On “Black Rock,” there is a blues foundation, but there is some southern rock influence and lots of British rock.

Joe’s solo career started in 2000 so I have barely scratched the surface of his work. I have ordered a couple of his other discs and I’ll write them up if they’re as good as “Black Rock.” Give these a listen and see what I’m so excited about.

  • Steal Your Heart Away – This song has the simplicity of all great blues, but he doesn’t just play one of the 8 standard blues chord progressions. The song takes some interesting twists. Oh, and Bonamassa is a frightening technician on his instrument.
  • I Know a Place – The power chords are an anvil on which he pounds out a groove sharpened with soulful voice and wailing guitar.
  • Quarryman’s Lament – So here is some of the breadth I mentioned. Acoustic guitar, flute, and electric mandolin (I think) construct a song that shows a little Jethro Tull influence.
  • Wandering Earth – When the dirty riff first kicked in, I thought this was going to be a disposable track. Instead, it’s a traditional blues lamentation that he plays with astounding facility and emotion.
  • Look Over Yonders Wall – This is cover of an old James “Beale Street” Clark tune. It’s a predictable blues song, but it has a great turn of phrase and Bonamassa approaches it with a lot of energy.
  • Athens to Athens – Another acoustic song, but this one is wholesome, fun, and beautiful. He even works in some Middle Eastern wind instrument I cannot name.
  • Blue and Evil – An insanely heavy guitar riff sets up this rocker that sounds like a cross between Black Keys and Bad Company.

Bonamassa had some heavy hitters lend a hand on this album. Gregg Allman, Rick Derringer, and even Anton Fig were among the guest talent in the studio and they were all put together by producer Kevin Shirley (a.k.a. The Caveman), who has worked with Journey, Iron Maiden, Rush, and Led Zeppelin. This one is a winner, folks. Check it out.



November 15, 2010 - Posted by | Blues, Popular, Rock

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