Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Joe Bonamassa - Dust Bowl

Joe Bonamassa is first and foremost a blues guitarist. He toured with Buddy Guy when he was 12. He has played with BB King and Eric Clapton. The blues is his milieu. Dust Bowl, Bonamassa’s 9th solo album and his sixth with Kevin Shirley producing was recorded in Greece, Nashville, Malibu and Los Angeles. It is a blues album through and through, although at first blush it may not seem so.folder

In sixty-three minutes, Dust Bowl rolls through twelve songs that range in styles from country to Stevie Ray Vaughan boogie, bluegrass tinged rock to pop, without ever leaving the blues influence behind. And throughout Bonamassa’s virtuosity shines through.

Beginning with the sound of a train leaving the station, Slow Train is a slow hard blues, the band driving a great groove, Bonamassa ripping through cool blues licks. Leading into the title track, another slow tempoed but hard driving song, Dust Bowl is punctuated by a laid back western guitar lick.

Bonamassa’s singing is excellent throughout the album, as is his song writing. There are, none the less, three tracks with a guest singer and the third song Tennessee Plates is the first. John Hiatt shares the singing duties on the up-tempo country track, while Vince Gill fills the song with hot country guitar licks. Gill also plays and sings on the country boogie song Sweet Rowena. The guests are filled out by Bonamassa’s Black Country Communion band-mate Glenn Hughes, who co-sings the Free song, Paul Rodgers’ Heartbreaker.

But it is the Bonamassa songs that really shine. The mandolin led Black Lung Heartache, the Spanish infused slow blues The Last Matador of Bayonne, or the dirty sounding The Whale that Swallowed Jonah. Bonamassa is a storyteller, weaving tales in his writing that enhance his songs but don’t overshadow his strong band or his flawless guitar playing.

You Better Watch Yourself is a Stevie Ray Vaughan shuffle that at first hearing was intimately familiar. My first thought was that it was one of the standards, something Vaughan or Eric Clapton have covered previously. It is, however, a Bonamassa original and the albums best song. Beginning with Bonamassa riding his wah-wah pedal with a Hendrix like riff, he keeps on the pedal throughout and gives a performance that is so Stevie Ray like it seems a sure thing it was played on a Stratocaster.

The album ends on a surprising note, the Karen Lawrence/John Desautels song Prisoner. Formerly known as the Love Theme from “The Eye’s of Laura Mars” (prisoner), Bonamassa and producer Kevin Shirley take the Barbara Streisand ballad and turn it into a slow, sultry blues. It is what Jimmy Page’s Prisoner’s Blues aimed to be, but failed.

If you’re a blues rock fan waiting it out until June for Black Country Communion to release their 2nd album, Joe Bonamassa’s Dust Bowl is a must have album. It is a showcase of the blues in it’s many variants by one of it’s most prolific and virtuosic performers.

    Track Listing
  1. Slow Train

  2. Dust Bowl

  3. Tennessee Plates

  4. The Meaning of the Blues

  5. Black Lung Heartache

  6. You Better Watch Yourself

  7. The Last Matador of Bayonne

  8. Heartbreaker

  9. No Love on the Street

  10. The Whale That Swallowed Jonah

  11. Sweet Rowena

  12. Prisoner

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