Joe Bonamassa

Tank and I went to a BB King concert four or five years back knowing full well that the man was pushing four score years old, but we didn’t care.  We’re talking about BB King here folks.  Any fan of blues that gets the opportunity to see the genre’s most famous musician simply has to do it.  Besides, the opener was Fresh Scouts favorite Kenny Wayne Shepherd—younger, sprier, and quicker moving up and down the bridge of a guitar than old Blues Boy King, so good music was going to be had even if BB just sat in an oversized chair and talked about diabetes for 90 minutes.  And anyway, Kenny Wayne’s “Blue on Black” is one of the kickassingest songs ever to be recorded in life, so there was that, too.

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Joe Bonamassa

What we didn’t expect was the opener for the opener proving to be the most entertaining part of the evening.  Somebody told us the guy’s name and we were all, “Huh?” because it’s one of those four-syllable surnames that just don’t stick until you’ve heard it four or five times.  Several album purchases later and we’ve pretty well got the name committed to memory: Joe Bonamassa.  Say it four or five times, because you don’t want to be like Tank and me, forgetting the name for two or three years and having to stumble back into such a talent haphazardly a second time just to have it stick.  Dude’s that good.

He’s a New Yorker but he’s got a Brit-blues vibe about him.  There’s something very John Mayall about the way he does things—energetic and soulful vocally as well as instrumentally.  He’s got the kind of voice that makes a listener look forward to the verses and the chorus as much as they do the breakdowns.  We’ve got nothing against grunters like Howlin’ Wolf, or throaty roarers like Buddy Guy, but Bonamassa is legitimately melodic.

And oh yeah, he plays the blue hell out of a guitar.  He and his group of merry men seem to find a perfectly rock-worthy riff to build on, and right as you find a rhythm to bob your head to, the trills start flooding the track and it’s like somebody brought Stevie Ray Vaughan back to life.  Okay, nobody could bring Stevie Ray back to life, but I feel confident in saying that if SRV is the greatest blues guitarist ever, Bonamassa is fully capable of 75-80% of that.  Seriously.  He’s my pride and joy.

There’s plenty of good stuff to check out—both studio albums and live albums—but 2008’s “Live From Nowhere In Particular” is solid.  His newest release is a studio cut called “The Ballad of John Henry,” whose title track is what modern blues are all about.  He’s put out of a ton of records over the years, though, so if you find yourself loving his stuff (you will), there’s plenty to keep you busy.  Maybe even until BB King hits five score, God willing.

Want some more rockin’ blues?  You will need to check out J.J. Grey and Mofro!

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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