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Joe Bonamassa: Blues of Desperation Album Review

One of the more surprising Grammy snubs of 2017 is that of Joe Bonamassa.  Nominated for best traditional blues album, for Live at the Greek Theater Bonamassa ended up losing out to Bobby Rush.  Bonamassa has however, been voted Guitar World magazine’s best blues artist of 2016 for his latest album Blues of Desperation.  This is a pretty awesome album, for anyone who enjoys blues music.  Otherwise, most of it will probably sound all the same.  This is traditional blues, not like the work of Gary Clark Jr.  who tends to be on the more progressive side of the spectrum.

Track one: This Train comes in with an upbeat distorted strum.  “This train don’t stop for no one” Bonamassa sings.  Neither does the pace of the album.  Though the record isn’t exactly prime radio playing material, the album is completely devoid of filler songs.  There is always something interesting going on.  Bonamassa is an amazingly varied player, and can solo away for minutes at a time without boring the listener.

My favorite track, Mountain Climbing features a nearly Bonham-esque kickdrum steadiness that carries the song forward.  For some reason, the combination of this rhythmic thumping, the grungy descending guitar riff that leads into the chorus, and Bonamassas gruff vocals really sticks out to me.  The song’s solo is incredibly melodic; all bends and sustained notes, (until the end, he’s got to fit a 32nd note doubleback in there somehow) one could almost.

None of that is to say that Bonamassa can’t keep it mellow.  The Valley Runs Low is a simple, acoustic number with some sweet gospel chorusing in the background.  For me, It is this song that really demonstrates his skill as a musician.  I’m easy to please when the music in question is drenched in distortion, and fraught with furious soloing; but take a laid back strum, and acoustic slide riff, and make it interesting? That’s real skill right there.

Livin’ easy is another really enticing song.  It opens with an escalating saxophone note, like the listener is entering a ’20s jazz club.  Its the sax that gets the solo here , and the piano that stands out.  One of the modern eras greatest guitarists, Bonamassa isn’t opposed to playing second fiddle once in a while.


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