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CD REVIEW: JOE BONAMASSA – Blues Of Desperation

| 9 May 2016 | Reply

CD REVIEW: JOE BONAMASSA – Blues Of Desperation
J&R Adventures
25 March, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10

Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation

Joe Bonamassa rarely does anything out of desperation: his climb to global prominence has been nothing if not measured and methodical. The only hint of desperation here is restricted to his lyrics through these eleven brand new modern blues songs.

It’s worth repeating that these are all original compositions: Bonamassa has peppered his 16 previous albums with all manner of interpretations and reimaginations of standards over the years, but something has changed for the man more often recalled as an incendiary guitar player than a composer.

On Blues Of Desperation Bonamassa is completely at ease, delivering coolly precise playing on these tracks, and playing in servitude to the songs – something he hasn’t always done in his quest for guitar hero-dom. The album is an easy listen, but it sure ain’t ‘easy listening’: if he sounds somewhat restrained at times, it’s when he is coaxing some amazing dynamics and atmospherics from his guitar and band, with the invaluable aid of uber-producer Kevin Shirley. It’s also a grower, with the depth herein becoming more noticeable with each successive listen. To nail home the new, more comfortable, theory, Bonamassa is photographed in jeans and t-shirt on the inside sleeve rather than the suits he’s more reknowned for.

Kicking off with the solid rocker This Train, Mountain Climbing pushes the bar up a few notches with an excellent solo and hearty female backing vocals courtesy of Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita. There’s a Sixties feel to this song – a modern take on what Ike & Turner did, perhaps.

Drive is mellower, a raunchier blues take on Chris Rea’s ‘80s work, with Bonamassa’s guitar work tasteful and understated rather than blazing all over the place. There’s no wonder this was chosen as the lead single, and no wonder it was received so well.

Hang on – did we suggest things were mellower here? Along comes No Good Place For The Lonely which burns like a bushfire, consuming all before it. It’s an epic, with an even-more-epic guitar solo that is worth the price of admission alone – and doubly so when How Deep This River Runs repeats the feat a little later on.

There’s blues-pop (The Valley Runs Low), BB King-inspired grooves (You Left Me Nothin’ But The Bill And The Blues), piano and scorching guitar-driven jump blues (Livin’ Easy) and the album finishes on another high point with the oh-so-sixties slow groove of What I’ve Known For A Long Time.

Category: CD Reviews

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