Joe Bonamassa

Blues of Desperation – Released 25.3.16 via Provogue.

There aren’t many artists on the planet that work as hard as Mr. Bonamassa and it’s incredible to believe his last studio album ‘Different Shade of Blue” was released in 2014. After that album achieved a Top 10 Billboard slot, Joe embarked on a worldwide tour where he sold out many arenas, playing to thousands of people and we can confirm that Joe’s live shows are a spectacle to behold, as we managed to catch him at the tail end of last year at Nottingham’s Trent FM arena. (see that review here)

Joe Bonamassa - Blues Of Desperation

Soon after that tour, GRAMMY nominated Joe, not one known for resting on his laurels, headed back to Nashville’s Grand Victor Sound Studios (formerly known as RCA Studio A), to start recording album number twelve, which saw Bonamassa working back along side his long-time producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Journey) and during an intense, five-day period they recorded eleven galvanizing songs with a crack group of musicians including drummers Anton Fig and Greg Morrow, bassist Michael Rhodes, keyboardist Reese Wynans, horn players Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra and Mark Douthit, and background singers Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins.

“I want people to hear my evolution as a blues-rock musician,” says Bonamassa, “somebody who isn’t resting on accomplishments and who is always pushing forward and thinking about how music can evolve and stay relevant”.

There are very few artists, around today that record albums with a whole band present, Joe goes on to say “Since we recorded the tracks live, you can tell the performance was paramount to each and every artists, who fed off each others energy, to bring the best out of each and everyone of us. I’d like to think this fact will help to invigorate and excite the fans, because they’ll be able to hear the passion and edgy sound that Kevin and I were going for. We feel this album embodies the energy and talents of all the musicians that feature on it’.

Blues of Desperation is Bonamassa’s most powerfully diverse and boldly realized album yet, with the material ranging from the gutsy, gritty blues call to arms of ‘This Train’ (Joe’s guitar is set to “rude” throughout) to the elegant yet emotionally shattering ballad ‘What I’ve Known For A Very Long Time’ to the soul-nourishing, acoustic-based Americana of ‘The Valley Runs Low’, on which Bonamassa’s voice rises up majestically to meet Barnes, McRae and Tippins in gospel-like rapture. And then there’s the bleary, tequila-soaked ‘Drive’, dripping with the kind of raw, wicked and unsettling sensuality that could make David Lynch go green with envy.

The opening track ‘This Train’ is a great little uplifting number, that appears to feature every musician enlisted to help produce this album. As it’s one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, it draws you into a false sense of security, as this album does in fact explore a plethora of different human emotions. I love the fact Bonamassa has managed to emulate the sound of an old locomotive, during the solo, simply by playing his guitar!

‘Drive’ is one our favourite tracks on this album and I can clearly see this becoming a firm favourite amongst the Bonamassa faithful. If Chris Rea and David Gilmour had a lovechild, this track would be the result. This track is an instant blues classic and we predict, it will feature on the forthcoming tour dates set list, no questions asked.

‘No Good Place For The Lonely’ is another favourite of ours and another classic track off this new album, which instantly reminds you why Joe Bonamassa is regarded as one of the greatest living guitar legends alive today. This track is a real showcase for the writing abilities of some of Music City’s top tunesmiths, people like James House, Tom Hambridge, Jeffrey Steele, Jerry Flowers and Gary Nicholson, who all worked alongside Bonamassa to create this album. The riffs in the solo, for this track, are a true masterclass and make it easily apparent why Joe is regarded as a guitarists guitarist.

I couldn’t tell you how or why this album demonstrates Joe Bonamassa’s musical evolution, as I wasn’t present during the making or thought process of his previous eleven studio albums but what I can tell you, is that for us, this album helps to strengthen the already widely known statement that is, Joe Bonamassa is one of the greatest all round Blues musician around as this album simply confirms that this artist was born to write and perform this type of music. Long may this continue and here’s hoping that we’ll not have too long to wait before we’re reviewing another stella album, just as is ‘Blues of Desperation’.

Full track listing:

1.This Train 2.Mountain Climbing 3.Drive 4.No Good Place For The Lonely 5.Blues Of Desperation 6.The Valley Runs Low 7.You Left Me Nothin’ But The Bill And The Blues 8.Distant Lonesome Train 9.How Deep This River Runs 10. Livin’ Easy 11.What I’ve Known For A Very Long Time

‘Blues Of Desperation’ will be available in the following formats:

2LP+MP3; CD Deluxe Silver Edition; CD.

Review by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)