Great review from Jon at GuitarNoize.com of Joe Bonamassa's new album, "Black Rock", due out March 23. The album can be pre-ordered from Bonamassa's U.S. distributor, J and R Adventures. Pre-orders will be shipped out two weeks prior to the release date. RC Blog looking forward to the April 23 tour date in Washington, D.C.
I think I said something similar last release, but I can’t believe Joe Bonamassa is only 32 and Black Rock is his 10th, yes you read that correctly, 10th solo album release. The album was recorded at Black Rock Studios, Santorini, Greece hence the album title. It has a few greek influences thrown in such as on the track "Bird On A Wire", one of the outstanding tracks on Black Rock, which has a Clarino I believe in the intro and it sounds like a Bazouki and maybe Mandolin in the background fused with drums that sound like John Bonham. This track is actually a cover of the Leonard Cohen track and yet again Joe Bonamassa shows his excellent arrangement skills by transforming not only this track but also Jeff Beck’s "Spanish Boots" and Otis Rush’s "Three Times A Fool".
One of the highlights on this album is Joe’s cover of Willie Nelson’s "Night Life" featuring the always incredible B.B. King, the man who recognised the talent of Joe at an early age. Joe and B.B.‘s playing compliment each other well, as do their vocals. I love hearing how different their styles of playing are, B.B. is tasteful and soulful and Joe has more of an aggressive attacking style with a smoking tone.
There are a couple of tracks on this album, "Three Times A Fool" and "Look Over Yonders Wall" that reminded me of Clapton, both in tone and playing. It is amazing what a Chameleon Joe is. Joe plays slide on a track called "When The Fire Hits The Sea" which at first I thought he sounded like Derek Trucks on then I realised, no he sounds like Joe Bonamassa with thick creamy tone and phrasing that draws on classic blues slide players mixed with modern influences.
I can’t review this album without making some Led Zeppelin references. There are a few tracks on this album that obviously draw inspiration from Led Zep and he even seems to replicate some Jimmy Page tones on certain tracks. The opener "Steal Your Heart Away" for instance, which is a cover of the Bobby Parker track, has a Jimmy Page kind of stomping rock riff and tone but then launches into a solo that would make Eric Johnson himself put his guitar down and weep. Also "Blue and Evil", another great track has with some breath-taking guitar playing and a riff that wouldn’t be out of place in Kashmir. I’m not saying that the album is ripping off Led Zeppelin I can just hear a lot of influence in Joe’s playing, tone and writing which not many people could achieve with such originality and style.
The Ballad of John Henry was quite an album to try and follow, Black Rock is a great album and an example of great songwriting, arrangements and of course guitar playing and tone. Joe experiments with guitar tone more than most which brings a nice quality to each track, you never tire of hearing that same sound although and yet it is always unmistakably Joe. Is this album better than The Ballad Of John Henry? Well it is difficult to compare because this album has a totally different feel to it. I love The Ballad Of John Henry, it was my favourite album of 2009 chock full of incredible covers and originals. Black Rock doesn’t quite have the same initial impact for me but grows on you with each listen and after 10 or so listens start to finish I can say that this is probably going to be one of the most played albums in my iTunes this year.
After being asked whether it is a heavy-blues album or a more melodic one such as the last one, the answer is a bit of both but it definitely has more of a rock vibe than the last album and has some great dirty heavy blues tracks such as "When The Fire Hits The Sea", "Three Times A Fool", and "Wandering Earth" (very “Since I’ve Been Loving You” - Zep). Also a folky old school acoustic blues style track called "Athens To Athens". But then it has moments of Rock Blues that will knock you off your feet.