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Bonamassa, Joe: Dust Bowl
Joe Bonamassa is both a solo blues guitarist/songwriter and a member of the classic rock band Black Country Communion. Dust Bowl is Joe's 12th full length solo album. Joe began as a child prodigy guitarist, opening for such blues legends as B.B. King and Buddy Guy at the age of twelve.
Joe had an incredible year in 2010, receiving many awards and rave reviews for his last solo album Black Rock, which like Dust Bowl, was recorded in part at Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece. With this latest release and a new Black Country Communion album slated for release this summer it looks like 2011 will be another good year for Joe.
This might just be the best album of 2011. There is enough power in this album to light New York City. The electric guitars, guest artists, and cover songs choices make this another great artistic progression for one of the best young blues guitarists alive. Vince Gill, John Hiatt, Glenn Hughes, Beth Hart and Joe's studio band mates bring this album to life in a way that sounds like a first take or live recording from the studio. Three different studios, one in Malibu, another in Nashville and a return to Greece give it a global feel and presence. The production quality is magnificent. You will definitely not want to be the only one who didn't purchase this album this year.
The slow drum and percussion Tal Bergman brings to that locomotive sound that opens "Slow Train" will grab your attention and hold it until Joe's, Stevie Ray Vaughan level blues guitar breaks through. Joe fills the soundscape with grinding blues guitar the way it used to be. This song has the emotion and feeling of a first take, live session. Joe's bluesy vocals match the rough grinding chords he's belting out of that electric guitar. Yeah, he brings the Smokestack Lightning and all the memories of power blues guitar to bear on this song, which is my favorite off the album. This is one of those legendary songs which, like SRV's remix of Jimmy Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" might break Joe into a wider US marketplace. One of the best blues songs Joe's ever done.
"Dust Bowl", the title track, is the second best song on the album for me. It follows the powerful "Slow Train", with a quiet synth/keyboard sound, before cool bass chords, percussion and drums bring back memories of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game". However, that is where the similarities end. This song is all Joe Bonamassa. The lyrics are powerful and reflect the difficult times we're all living in. "Gonna make my own way. Don't need a helmet to get me through life. I walk across water and blame it on foolish pride". The guitar solo is electric and with the support of the power drums, bass, and cool keys makes this song another good reason to buy the album. Peter Van Weelden does a cameo voice section on the end of the song giving the track an even more original feel. Right now this song is available as a free download from Joe's website before the album is released on March 22, 2011.
John Hiatt, one of Joe's idols, joins Joe on guitar and vocals on Hiatt's song "Tennessee Plates". This song was recorded in Nashville, in Chet Atkins's studio, and you can feel the change in tone on the album immediately. The piano is excellent and these two blues/country guitarists bring their full game, with the duel solos they play. Another of Joe's idols, Vince Gill, plays guest guitar on this song. The Nashville session artists who perform the band duties on this song create piano and perfect drum rhythm that you will not be able to sit still to for long.
"The Meaning of the Blues" might just be Joe's "Tin Pan Alley". A burning guitar solo that just might signature the feeling of modern blues. The feeling in the notes and emotion projected through the strings certainly brings back the power delivered by SRV with Tin Pan Alley, another of my favorite blues songs of the last thirty years. Tal Bergman's drums support this one perfectly. This is an old Bobby Troup jazz/blues song, made famous by Miles Davis, and brought back to life here by Joe.
"Black Lung Heartache" really captures the spirit and essence of life in the coal mines of West Virginia and Appalachia, but was inspired by the recent miner's incident in Chile. The acoustic guitar and Greek baglamas work is just incredible. This is another Joe Bonamassa original, like "Slow Train", "Dust Bowl", The Last Matador in Bayonne, and "The Whale That Swallowed Jonah". Joe's songwriting is sincere and emotional. The power chords and drums which flow through the second half of the song bring back memories of the transitions you hear and feel in Led Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore".
"You Better Watch Yourself" is an early Walter Jacobs, boogie woogie song, made famous by Buddy Guy, that Joe pulls out the Strat to breathe new life into. Joe's power and emotion drive the guitar as Rick Melick's piano sets the perfect backing atmosphere along with those flailing drums from Bergman and solid bass from Carmine Rojas.
"The Last Matador of Bayonne" opens with slow plucked electric guitar and that powerful bass rolling around in the mix, bringing the deep lows necessary for a final salute. Tony Cedras guest horn provides the perfect effect to really drive the emotions of this fighter's last triumphant walk into the bull ring. The guitar solos are some of the best on the album.
Joe and his Black Country Communion band mate Glenn Hughes come together to bring the Paul Rogers song, "Heartbreaker" back to life again. Their teaming on some of BCC's songs was incredible so I was glad to hear that they'd be doing another duet on this album. The guitar work is almost as good as the vocal exchanges. When you get two mighty rockers together you know sparks are gonna fly. A tribute to Free's lead guitarist Paul Kossoff. This is another great highlight off the album.
Beth Hart guest vocals on "No Love on the Street", a Tim Curry, Michael Kamen song. This deep, bluesy, guitar riff heavy, song was recorded live and has the power and feeling of a first take. Another great guitar hero highlight tape of some masterful guitar. The power of a "Tin Pan Alley" mixed with "Texas Flood". Just magnificent.
Recorded in Nashville, "The Whale That Swallowed Jonah", is Joe's father's favorite song on the album. Joe bought a new mandolin to get the sound just right on this track. The piano and organ provide such a wonderful almost live effect for this song. The bass brings the power and those drums stomp all over this song. "Maybe it's the whale's way of telling me it's time to get yourself back home" The rocking beat will have you stomping your feet and most likely dancing long before the song finishes.
Vince Gil's song, "Sweet Rowena" makes its debut, with the two artists sharing guitars and vocals. The piano plays a wonderful lead role on this honky tonk song. The two artists play their separate sections of the song and rejoin for the chorus, like they've been playing together for years. Another song which almost sounds like it was recorded live.
Joe Bonamassa covers Barbara Streisand's "Prisoner" for the album's closer. Yes, I wrote Barabara Streisand. This entire album has been about Joe pushing his boundaries and limits, and you can't push them any further, for a blues artist, than to cover a Barbara Streisand song. But Joe makes this song his. The power of his vocals and guitar are enormous. He truly captures the power of the lyrics and emotion of the song. The solo guitar work is extraordinary. It must be experienced to be fully appreciated. When Kevin and Joe get together who knows what might happen.
1. Slow Train
2. Dust Bowl
3. Tennessee Plates (feat. John Hiatt)
4. The Meaning Of The Blues
5. Black Lung Heartache
6. You Better Watch Yourself
7. The Last Matador Of Bayonne
8. Heartbreaker (feat. Glenn Hughes)
9. No Love On The Street
10. The Whale That Swallowed Jonah
11. Sweet Rowena (feat. Vince Gill)
Added: March 2nd 2011
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Artist Website
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