JOE BONAMASSA – YOU AND ME

Joe_Bonamassa_-_You_&_Me

Out now on Mascot/Provogue
Original review published in 2006

Joe Bonamassa, a household name in the blues community, was recently elected as the youngest member of the board of directors of The Blues Foundation, the USA’s largest and most respected blues music organisation – quite an honour, yet give the quality and quick turnaround of his last five albums you can see why. “You and Me” is Bonamassa’s sixth studio CD and contains 11 brand new tracks and is home to a monster backing band in Jason Bonham on drums (yes John’s son) and Carmine Rojas on Bass Guitar and Rick Melick on Organ and Tambourine.

Bonamassa is clearly in music for one reason – the music. This shines through his relentless non stop touring (always on the road) or recording new material when not on tour. Bonamassa is taking blues back to the people and at his tender age don’t be surprised if this guy really hits in the next couple of years – much as Stevie Ray Vaughan did.

What Joe has going for him, more so than many other US blues players is a strong British vibe in his work, you can hear the influences the like of Clapton, Page and Beck have had on him and the majority of his material reflects the heavier guitar side of blues – albeit with more tradition and soul than Gary Moore has shown on his last few “through the motions” blues releases.

Stylistically this is a great mix of tunes from the traditional opener “High Water Everywhere” to the blistering blues rock of “Bridge To Better Days”, the slow blues of “Asking Around For You” and the musically rich instrumental “Django” . The album even features a faithful cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Tea For One” (one of their often overlooked gems), really the guitar playing is faultless, the song writing top notch and performances superb. My only real gripe is Kevin Shirley’s production which to these ears has added an overly dark edge to Bonmassa’s raw tone (I prefer the production on the previous ‘Had To Cry Today’) but this is a minor niggle.

Overall “You and Me” is another quality release from this blues hound which is as good as the previous release ‘Had To Cry Today’.

Rating – 90%

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JOE BONAMASSA – BLACK ROCK (REVIEW)

Out now on Provogue Records

Yet another bold, confident, masterful release from “the future of blues rock”. Joe and Kevin Shirley retreated to Santorini Greece to seek new inspiration and to break in a brand new studio set in the cliffside. The result is the very mature “Black Rock” which comprises 5 Joe penned originals and 8 cover tunes. Four tunes include traditional Greek instrumentation, best of those is “Quarryman’s Lament” which is one of Joes best riff compositions yet, you will be humming this one; a lot.

Joe’s vocal performance is also his best yet, and as always, plenty of snarly classic tone guitar riffage is evident, primarily on killer tracks like “Blue & Evil”, Bobby Parker’s “Steal Your Heart Away” and the great cover of Jeff Beck’s “Spanish Boots” . The highlight for Joe on this album is the participation of B.B. King on the Willie Nelson standard “Night Life”, and a great guest spot it is too, B.B. still rocking hard in his eighties and perhaps left just a little out of breath by tunes end. The most surprising inclusion however, is Joe’s take on Leonard Cohen’s poignant “Bird on a Wire”, replete with traditional Greek instrument embellishment.

Overall, this is another positive step in Joe’s steep developmental process. Only qualm is that perhaps the production is perhaps just a tad too clean, not enough dirt left under the fingernails for a big rock small blues production. The guaranteed success of this offering will once again have the blues purists cringing, but Joe’s popularity continues to grow in leaps and bounds and rightly so. Well done Joseph….. I eagerly await the as yet officially unnamed “suppa groupa” project from Joe, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian later this year, should rock hard.

Rating – 85%
Review by Mike Blackburn

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION – BLACK COUNTRY (REVIEW)

Released 20th September 2010 – Mascot Records
 
On the strength of some simpatico vibes generated by a Glenn Hughes guest vocal appearance at a Joe Bonamassa concert, and probably fuelled somewhat by the commercial success of the Hagar/Satch Chickenfoot project, the genesis spark for this “super group” was struck. There are precious few of these amalgamations that have generated much critical success (including said ‘Foot) and so it was with great trepidation that I cracked open this offering. The main concern was the quality of the 60 plus vocal chords of one Glenn Hughes. A few live YouTube videos exacerbated that concern……

Well then, there was no need for concern was there? Glenn sounds magnificent, Joe slashes and burns throughout; Derek adds timely keyboard flourishes and Jason whomps down a solid backbeat his dad would be proud of. This is one heavy slab of majestic top drawer rockness . The sucker takes three or four songs to get off the ground and then soars through the following onslaught, masterfully engineered by Joe’s maestro of choice these days, Kevin Shirley. “Sista Jane” is as close as you will ever hear Glenn and Joe to AC/DC territory. The compositions are surprisingly strong, given the short time frame utilized to produce this sucker.

I have but one slight qualm. Joe, when noodling for his own pleasure, or shredding, has a tendency to rely on this really cool Eric Johnson phrasing riff. We get to hear that riff, however flawlessly performed, a tad too often here. Regardless, Joe’s performance here on six string, and vocally I might add (the fact that Joe can hold his own with an in form Hughes speaks volumes as to his emergence as THE premier rock-blueser on the planet) is superb. This, should they choose to make it so, IS a super group and this CD is a must have. The Trapeze standard “Medusa” is a thing of beauty to behold.

Thanks guys for sticking to your guns as this slab almost did NOT see the light of day…..

Rating – 90%
Review by Mike Blackburn

KEN’S DOJO – REINCARNATION (REVIEW)

Out Now – Metal Heaven

Ken’s Dojo is a project by Ken Ingwersen. A glorious unknown to me. Apparently he’s worked with several illustrious names over the years. Chesney Hawkes however? You’d get more street cred working with Aqua… In recent years Ken has been part of a production team that allegedly scored major successes in Europe and Asia. He’s also a member of Ken Hensley’s touring band.

For this, his first solo album, Ken has opted for the rock approach. A gentle mix of prog and AOR with obvious pop influences. “Keeping The Flame Alive” gives a firm nod in the proggy direction, while ballad “I Surrender” could very well be a hit if only the mainstream media could pull their heads out of their asses for long enough.

There are several guest musicians implicated, not all of whom will ring a bell.
Glenn Hughes (excellent on “I Surrender”) and Ken Hensley are the biggest names. Ken is an accomplished guitarist who manages to steer clear of the clichés yet come up with interesting lines. Not all songs are equally strong (some, like “Come Alive”, could have done with a bit of careful editing), but there’s precious little potential for embarrassment.

Rating – 80%
Review By Sancho