Early in 2003, as a way of "blowing off some steam" after a couple of years
of non-stop touring, young guitar maestro Joe Bonamassa headed to New York
City's Unique Recording Studios to polish off a few old blues classics and
add some material of his own.
Even in his teen-age years Bonamassa was a "prodigy" by those who witnessed
his onstage jam sessions with Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker and the late
guitar hero Danny Gatton. Allman Brother producer Tom Dowd and B.B. King
have put their two cents in commenting on Joe's unwavering talents. George
Thorogood had Bonamassa fill in on the second guitar seat when bandmember
Jim Suhler couldn't make the gig. Now how many headliners do that?
These crossroads and musical posts have proven inspiration enough for Joe
Bonamassa to issue "Blues Deluxe." What the listener gets is a package of
guitar virtuosity showing a talent not to be overlooked. Bonamassa's take
on "Walkin Blues" resembles the Les Paul boozy-slide fingerwork of Allman
Brother Warren Haynes. "Mumbling Word" is an acoustic bottle-neck number
that could find Joe equally at home on the Delta. The title cut "Blues
Deluxe" is an old Jeff Beck recording from the album "Truth." A slow blues
building to a plateau of stinging notes and flourishes that even an old
rocker like Beck couldn't ignore. Twirling the volume knobs in this and a
laidback "Long Distance Blues" recalls the tortured soul of Roy Buchanan.
An obscure John Lee Hooker "Burning Hell" becomes a molten slide fest of
bourbon boogie taking effect at the chicken shack. (Cautionary advice is to
never drive on an open highway with this song past 11. You will be ticketed
What's an added bonus is Bonamassa's uncanny emulation of these forefathers.
His skills are no less diminished when he tackles "Left Overs" written by
Albert Collins. The spirit of the "Master of The Telecaster" is heard in
the nimble fretwork as notes are punctuated with emotionality and spiritual
Enough emphasis has been placed on axe-cutting. Even more impressive is
Bonamassa's vocals. Using his voice as a second instrument breathes a
freshness into Buddy Guy's "Man of Many Words" that attempts to stick close
to its original fare while injecting funk fluid into its musical veins. A
fast acoustic "Woke Up Dreaming" is speeded blues as Bonamassa's vocals
become a landmark of confessional urgency when a man confronts an abyss in
his life. But Joe doesn't wallow in puddles of depression for long. Not
when he is tearing it up in "Wild About You Baby" that devoids itself of
Bassist Eric Czar and drummer Kenny Kramme never trail far behind. When the
two interlock, the Richter Scale goes haywire when they are blowing off the
roof in "Burning Hell" or Elmore James' "Wild About You Baby" that lets
Bonamassa display slide techniques without the issue of restraint at hand.
Benny Harrison's Hammond B-3 finds a jazzy groove in "Left Overs." Former
Johnny Winter sideman Jon Paris assists Bonamassa in making "Walkin Blues" a
Southern staple of classic rock.
A fitting gesture Joe Bonamassa would craft something like Blues Deluxe in a
year that Congress calls the "year of the blues." The only difference being
Bonamassa is on his own bandwagon and not hitching it to those caravans
whose musical creativity sputters with false starts and stops.
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