Album review: Versatile Joe Bonamassa’s on a mission

Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa’s “Live At Carnegie Hall, An Acoustic Evening.”

Fearlessness in the design. Discriminating taste in every aspect. Astounding flair and constant drive. Joe Bonamassa’s assets illuminate and enhance everything he does — from playing guitar, to singing, arranging, and leading several diverse teams. By virtue of his long string of projects, Joe’s on a mission to make sure folks remember him as much more than the blues-rockin’ guitar-slinger the media generally have him tagged as.

New sides yet of his incredible versatility flourish all the way through “Live At Carnegie Hall, An Acoustic Evening.” Culled from a two-night stand at the venerable New York City venue in January 2016, the two CDs highlight a dazzling assortment of songs played by a fresh aggregation of eight players and singers, including the theatrical Shanghai cellist Tina Guo and the illustrious multi-instrumentalist Eric Bazilian (of Hooters fame). Renowned Southern pianist Reese Wynans, drummer Anton Fig, percussionist Hossam Ramzy, and a trio of backing vocalists round out the group.

In places, their lush sound calls to mind the exotic nature, not to mention muted Led Zep whomp, of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s 1994 Unledded reunion shows. Middle Eastern mysticism surrounds the tough “Blue and Evil,” and in a different light “Song of Yesterday,” the sweeping, soaring number from the first album by Black Country Communion (Bonamassa’s metallic band with vets Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham). But they begin the show with a magnificent piano and acoustic guitar recitation of the intro to Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath.” Which in short order plows into the locomotion of “This Train,” one of four that Bonamassa penned with Nashville’s James House.

Another, “The Valley Runs Low,” slants toward country, but brims with soulful grandeur, while one more arrives with “Drive,” the sexy pace of the tune thoroughly addicting. But for the ultimate in dramatic flair and explosions of irresistible groove, “Dust Bowl” covers it completely.

There’s Big Easy blues in “Livin’ Easy,” and gospel in the now-topical oldie “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live.” “Get Back By Tomorrow,” his neo-R&B duet with Australian soul singer Mahalia Barnes during which he picks sublime bluegrass-worthy notes, and “Woke Up Dreaming,” his head-to-head combat with Guo, further emphasize Joe Bonamassa’s unending and thoroughly successful reach. Every song benefits greatly by virtue of this band.

So far, this is my second favorite cuppa Joe, right behind his first blast of acid blues and soul with Beth Hart.

-Tom Clarke

  • Joe Bonamassa
    ‘Live at Carnegie Hall, an Acoustic Evening’
    Label: J&R Adventures

 

About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 20 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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