Joe Bonamassa – Back To The Wood

It’s acoustic album time once more for the American guitar man, as his Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening set is released. Pete and Joe discuss the material, personnel and everything else. But how long this time before the conversation descends into pure guitar nerdery? Read on to find out…

Christie Goodwin

JLTT: How you doing, Joe?


JB: Fine, Pete – it’s been a good tour, y’know..some great audiences, too. The band’s on fire, just doin’ it every night


I’ve got to rethink my life, Joe – Donald Trump has just said that there’s nothing lower than being a critic…


Oh well…


But didn’t he spend a lot of time dissing Hillary, Congress, Washington, the media?


Contradictory, maybe…? (Laughs) Well, people – not you ! – do criticise me and maybe it’s very easy to do so but then just try getting out there and creating a band and playing two and a half hours of that range of music and selling the seats AND if it IS that easy, by all means get out there and just do it yourself…


How create anything – a band, a record, a song, a website – you stick your neck out and if people carp, I say ‘I await your attempt‘


Hey I can believe that there maybe are people who can do it better than your or me, or anyone else but THAT’s not the point ! The point is that if you do something others enjoying, you’re doing great and then as long as you are happy and you always give it your is working. So yes, you know what – YOU put this thing together, you sell two nights at the Royal Albert Hall… (laughs)


This new acoustic record of yours, I have been listening closely to it and it is a different thing to your famous Vienna adventure, I would say


Well we wanted it to be another type of evening of music. Not repeat Vienna. And with different people with me on the stage, to let that itself create what you end up hearing on these recordings. The songs are not the same, or not played the same way. The singers here – Juanita, Mahalia and Gary Pinto, they bring their own touch to the songs. With the other shows we do you are often bringing in big guitar solo’s but in this lineup it’s not so easy to keep doing the big solo’’s just not in the nature of the instruments often. The music still sounds full and rich when you need that but in a different combination or blend. The challenge is to attain that, by whatever means or approach you adopt.


Reese (Wynans, keyboards, ex SRV & Double Trouble – PS) seem to be in his element, playing very freshly


Yes. And Anton’s (Fig – drummer – PS) really at the heart of a lot of the arrangements and generally what’s going on in the songs. He has the responsibility in the show of making the time signatures work and that the group holds together.


Eric Bazilian seems a useful member as he can play so many instruments. And this guy wrote One Of Us for Joan Osborne!


Absolutely ! He wrote that and The Hooters material and he is a really great soloist.

Eric to me is very much the all-round musician, producer, writer. He walks the walk and talks the talk, y’know ? He’s the real deal.


In some ways he’s like an American Steve Winwood. You know Prince did One Of Us?


Yeah that’s right, he did…


The other noticeable elements are the cello and the Eastern percussion


Which is Tina Guo and Hossam Ramzy – he’s from Egypt and has worked with everybody, including Page and Plant for No Quarter


There have been some great recordings done at Carnegie – Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bill Withers..


You know the whole thing with me and why we did these acoustic shows is to do with the nature of the building itself. Carnegie is less suited to all-powerful kind of blasting shows than it is to the intricacies and interplay that maybe a different show would bring into play. In this venue, if you dropped guitar pick the back row would hear it ! It’s that alive, as a room, you get to hear everything. You need the minimum PA.


Some acts just don’t allow on gear for venue differences. I was talking to Billy Gibbons about this. You have to play the room


Well yeah, that’s the whole thing – you can often overplay the music in this kind of environment and you want to keep it clean and clear to make the best of every player’s contribution AND of course the singing. There are songs on this release that we wouldn’t do in the electric setup


The one I keep playing is Dust Bowl, the vibe always slays me


I wrote that song many years ago. It’s been in our sets for many years. In fact we did it one time at the Albert Hall and it does work there, with that instrumentation and works as hard rock or stripped down to this Carnegie version


I was at the Albert Hall. And the singing is magnificent on that


Thanks, Pete – I’ll pass that on


I was pleased to hear you include How Can I Poor Man, the Alfred Reed number. I often do that but with an ascending chord insert or two before each verse


Well I wanted to have a shot… Ah, there’s so many versions of that song but I really do like the words so I wanted to


One of my favourite major key numbers. It does lend itself to a bit of customisation. Woke Up Dreaming is a bit wild


The way I describe it is a carnival band decides to do a bunch of cocaine and that is the result !


It’s like an old black-and-white cartoon, being chased by wolves and monsters. Will you be promoting this record with any shows do you think?


Nooo…we did this record about a year and a half go and I don’t foresee any shows based on this acoustic record right now. Right now we’re doing the electric shows and we are so thrilled having this band together to play them and we are about to hit the road this summer with an all originals show in America. We may do some more shows between that and the end of the year. Europe again next year, we hope.


When I reviewed the Albert Hall show that I saw, I commented that after a lot of tribute-based shows – all worthwhile – this one seemed to answer the question ‘Yes but what does Joe Bonamassa sound like?


It does, yeah ! I have so many albums out now that choosing sets is hard, so we tried to touch on Muddy Wolf, The BritBlues thing we did that you saw and write about and mix it into the own songs to cover all bases..


Little Girl sounded good, that insistent riff and the step upwards in the solo


That IS cool, isn’t it ? makes the song. And How Many More Times


That got the audience up and rocking


So a little bit of everything in two hours or so..but yeah I have some eighteen albums out and if you did four hours, people would get tired


We met people at the Albert Hall who were seeing you for the very first time. I was writing out some setlists for my own shows in the café and I was asked if I was working on your tour!


Some people wanted Sloe Gin but we have been playing that for some thirteen years ! so that’s maybe thirteen hundred times …Love Ain’t A Love Song has changed SO many times, in the past couple of weeks, Lee Thornburg and myself have started doing a kind of trad-off of licks in that, so it’s refreshed for performance.


Glenn and I wrote separate RAH show reviews however we both thought a Lee and Reese moody passage evoked Bitches Brew, by Miles Davis, when we compared pieces a few days sounded ace


When you have players that good, you want to give them some room, let them play out. This band has so much horse power and for me it’s great to showcase the players and the show benefits. Then I can assert myself where needed and it’s right.


I always ask my band members to play whatever they want, whisper to a scream. Nobody’s going to glare at them. So they make it all breathe


Precisely ! this lineup I have might be maybe blues-centric in a way BUT additionally there’s jazz influences in there, Latin, Fusion, can switch gears and explore a bit when you want to, knowing it will sound really good and interesting for the audience


You’re not keen on wireless for the guitars, are you?


(Sighs) It’s another thing that can go wrong, is how I see it. So I can live with the cords.


How many guitars have you got now with your name on the neck? When we hung out down in Brighton you had the Les Paul on the sofa but what about that FireBird, the baby blue one? New?


Er…nine I believe..yes that’s recent


What’s the quality in that one that makes you select it?


The thing about a FireBird is that it has a sound between a Fender and a Gibson. It’s darker than a Fender but not a standard Gibson tone. For chiming chords it would sound too dark.  You can get a kind of hollow sound for a solo, which is cool. It’s a very unique guitar but has its place…


( It was 23 minutes ! I have removed our chat about baritone guitars, for your comfort – PS)


Do you think hanging out with Glenn Hughes has been good for you, overall? Hands up, Glenn and I love the guy


Yeah it has and also it has really made me understand and appreciate the roots of British Rock Music. I like his positivity and collaborating with him is always a gas. The new Black Country Communion release is coming…

Pete Sargeant

Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa


Joe Bonamassa

(Thanks Joe)

All Photos Credited to Christie Goodwin

Joe Bonamassa Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening”  is out now on CD, DVD, Blu-Ray and Vinyl.

You can purchase it here:

You can read all of our articles about Joe Bonamassa here:

For more information visit Joe’s official website here:

In addition, Bonamassa will be embarking on a 7-date full electric band UK tour in March 2018. Dates, venues and ticket links are listed below: 

Joe Bonamassa

Friday 9th March 2018 – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

Saturday 10th March 2018 – Manchester Arena, Manchester, United Kingdom

Sunday 11th March 2018 – Sands Centre, Carlisle, United Kingdom

Tuesday 13th March 2018 – GE Oil & Gas Arena, Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom


Wednesday 14th March 2018 – Sage, Gateshead, United Kingdom

Friday 16th March 2018 – Genting Arena, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Saturday 17th March 2018 – Brighton Centre, Brighton, United Kingdom