Album Reviews

Joe Bonamassa

Blues Of Desperation

Artist:     Joe Bonamassa

Album:     Blues Of Desperation

Label:     J&R Adventures

Release Date:     03/25/2016

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Joe Bonamassa leaps like a hurdler over typical blues/rock guitar-slinger parameters. Proof can be savored in his three albums with acidic soul queen Beth Hart, certainly the two with his instrumental Rock Candy Funk Party, and surely in the globally-eclectic An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House. All of them, and eight wide-ranging others, entertain in dissimilar circumstances and were studio-cut or recorded live within the last five years. Amazing. No one works harder at his prodigious craft, and his identity than this ultra-smokin’ Joe. But 1970’s blues/rock has always been Bonamassa’s taproot. With Blues of Desperation—album # God only knows—he reminds us of that fact, firmly, and with unending sting.

Right off, with a metallic clang, “This Train” barrels headstrong down tracks ridden long ago by the likes of Jeff Beck and the Yardbirds. Double drumming inside a small core band throughout the album was a brilliant idea, and Anton Fig and Greg Morrow fire the engine especially effectively on that opener. Otherwise, keys man Reese Wynans, and some brass and backup vocalists add subtle color. “Mountain Climbing” had to be inspired by Leslie West’s historic band. It stomps to a chorus that’s both soulful and forbidding, and Bonamassa plays scrumptious guitar amid the chaos. The stoned “Drive,” featuring a trio of ladies seductively oohing, turns out to be a sexy interlude before the sparks fly once again in “No Good Place for the Lonely,” again featuring Joe out there on lengthy, incendiary guitar runs.

Bonamassa teamed for the second album in a row here with several of Nashville’s top songwriters, and this slate far exceeds the previous on 2014’s Different Shades of Blue. The title song clearly evokes Led Zeppelin, but with intriguingly unique ways and means. The ladies again light up the chorus of “How Deep this River Runs,” a tune with deep blue roots, but one that also would’ve been perfect on the albums Bonamassa went full-metal bore on with ex-Deep Purple bassist and singer Glenn Hughes in the band Black Country Communion. He ends this fine affair with some smoky jazz and B.B. King-soulful blues, very admirably, back to the well.

-Tom Clarke

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