Soundchecks Music Reviews

You & Me by Joe Bonamassa

Mascot Provogue PRD7185-2

Joe Bonamassa

review by Andrew Darlington

Those rumours of the death of the blues were exaggerated. It's very much alive. The muscular guitar and assured power-chord delivery here are as incendiary as just about anything you ever heard. Born in upstate New York, but resident in L.A., Joe Bonamassa comes with the academically precise imprint of The Blues Foundation, while infusing it with fire and originality. If Joe plunders contemporaries - or near-contemporaries, such as Ry Cooder or Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (from Led Zeppelin's Presence) he fits them seamlessly into his own programme - "a blues album, not a rock album with blues on it."

Since his 2001 debut album (produced by Tom Dowd) which lifted its title from Jethro Tull's A New Day Yesterday, while hoovering up covers such as Free's Walk In My Shoes he's delivered on an album-a-year schedule establishing his roots in the richly satisfying raunch of 1970s' style hard rock guitar-heroics. This time round he's got Kevin 'Caveman' Shirley at the mixing desk, a producer with Zep, Joe Satriani, Aerosmith, and Black Crowes on his CV, and Jason Bonham on drums. So Many Roads draws on what they used to call 'blistering' guitar solos, self-indulgent as hell, boisterously energetic, but undeniably viscerally powerful. High Water Everywhere is Charley Patton's grungy Delta glance at the devastation of New Orleans. And if the hint of strings on Asking Around For You suggest B.B., then Joe returns literally and with supreme confidence to the 'Blues Deluxe' of Sonny Boy Williamson with Your Funeral And My Trial.

He lists his guitars - Strats, Les Pauls, Gibson Flying V's, Telecasters, and his amps, and flaunts his lacerating fret skills on the instrumental Django, dripping sweat and fire in supernatural swoops and chilling, eerie string-bending, spine-shaking soloing. And then adds Bert Jansch-fingering to his own brief 1:47-minute Palm Trees, Helicopters And Gasoline. If you ever wondered if this oldest-of-all 20th century music forms has anything new to say, here's the answer. As it should be, a living tradition...

Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press