Joe Bonamassa Black Rock
CD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter




March 2010
T rack listing:

Steal Your Heart
I Know a Place
When the Fire Hits
The Sea
Quarryman's Lament
Spanish Boots
Bird on a Wire
Three Times A Fool
Night Life
Wandering Earth
Look Over Yonders
  Athens to Athens
  Blue and Evil
  Baby You Gotta
Change Your Mind

Label: J&R Adventures
Release Date:
March 23, 2010

There's a large mass of fans out there that can't wait to hear this CD, Bonamassa's tenth solo effort, because they know it promises to deliver more licks than a Tootsie Roll pop. And, there are still those that are scratching their heads, saying Bona-who? And I'd like to urge all of those folks to pay close attention. This is Joe Bonamassa, ladies and gentlemen, and he's the best there is.

Fans of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all of the old Blues guys are sure to instantly fall in love with Bonamassa's penchant for playing the blues. This Black Rock CD delivers on the unspoken promise of great blues songs, but it's the added extras that make this disc a captivating, unrelenting and powerful slab of music.

Bonamassa once again employs longtime producer Kevin Shirley to handle production duties, and as he puts it, "With this album, we wanted to explore a 'world' feeling." This approach was the inspiration for recording the album in Greece. And Black Rock Studios, where the album was recorded, eventually inspired the title of the disc. The addition of instruments like the Greek bouzouki and clarion add a nice dimension to a fairly standard selection of excellent blues tunes.

Out of the thirteen songs on Black Rock, only five of them are Bonamassa-penned originals. And if the eight cover songs in this set weren't so damn smokin', that might be one complaint I might have. Not only is this guy a phenomenal guitar player, he's a fantastic singer and songwriter as well. Most of my favorite songs from the CD are Bonamassa's originals. "Quarryman's Lament" and "Athens To Athens" are two originals that incorporate the bouzouki and clarion, without falling away from the expert guitar playing that keeps you wanting more. "When The Fire Hits The Sea" and "Blue And Evil" focus on a more classic/hard rock approach, and they both attain that feel with a great deal of success. Bonamassa's brilliant when he writes traditional blues, also. "Wandering Earth" is a song that has an amazing amount of soul (and soloing!), with a fist full of grit that gives the tune an aged and distinguished seat amongst the blues classics that surround it.

Longtime fans will be happy to hear that this disc is chock full of Joe's signature blues style. Songs like John Hiatt's "I Know A Place," James Clark's "Look Over Yonders Wall," and Otis Rush's "Three Times A Fool" are all songs that cater to the extreme blues chops of Bonamassa. Perhaps the most surprising song in this set is the cover of Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire." Even though the song seems like a foreigner in the bluesy world of Bonamassa, he lets his voice cry out with tremendous poignancy, which allows the song to domesticate itself nicely.

Bonamassa opened a show for B.B. King when he was only 12 years old. After hearing him play, King said, "He's one-of-a-kind." For many of Bonamassa's loyal fans, the performance of "Night Life" with blues legend B.B. King is the highlight of this disc. It is great to hear B.B. King playing Lucille, right next to Bonamassa's screaming solos.

Alongside King, Bonamassa's hired guns for this disc are also amazing. The rhythm section of Carmine Rojas on bass, and the drum work of Anton Fig and Bogie Bowles, makes this a real treat for the ears.

If you are a longtime fan, be prepared for another great collection of blues guitar driven songs, mixed with some solid, well written rock tracks.

If you are a newcomer to the world of Joe Bonamassa, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Photos: Robert Knight, Karen Rosetzky

Joe Bonamassa Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

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