Joe Bonamassa- Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks CD
Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group
On Labor Day Weekend in 2014, 9,000 blues fans descended on Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to hear worldwide blues rock titan Joe Bonamassa pay thanks to the legendary individuals that inspired not only himself but musicians everyone from every generation; Muddy Waters (whose scratchy voice awarded him his title of the ‘father of modern Chicago Blues’) and Howlin’ Wolf. This live concert was presented by Keeping the Blues Alive (KBTA), an organisation that was not only founded by Bonamassa but one that promotes the heritage of the blues for future generations and helps supplement the loss of music education programs in public schools. Ticket sales from this show alone raised $40,000 for KBTA and I think that act of generosity from everyone involved is proof enough that this show was an astounding success.
As for band personnel, Joe has assembled a collection of players who are named ‘The Muddy Wolf Band’ and they include Anton Fig (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Kirk Fletcher (guitar), Reese Wynans (piano, Hammond Organ). However, Joe has also done the right thing by including his love of horns in the mix with Lee Thornburg (trumpet, horn arrangements), Ron Dziubla (saxophone) and Nick Lane (trombone).
Muddy Waters was a major inspiration for the British blues of the 1960s, which in turn influenced Bonamassa and his own material. The Mississippi Heartbeat (Intro) is absolutely fascinating but needs to be watched on the DVD to really be appreciated. The show opens with ‘Tiger In Your Tank’, a song showcases Muddy’s pure lyrical genius and ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ feels like a travelling song and you can picture Bonamassa and producer/long-term friend Kevin Shirley travelling to The Crossroads on the DVD bonus features.
Wynans’s solo on Wolf’s ‘How Many More Years’ has so much precision whilst although Joe’s vocals are strong you can tell that he is not trying to be a vocal carbon copy of Howlin’ Wolf which is so refreshing as in tribute scenarios such as this people can sometimes run the risk of trying to emulate the recordings completely, thus removing any originality or sense of homage.
Harmonica player Mike Henderson lets rip on ‘Evil (Is Going On)’ and they have really bought the songs to life with the use of old footage. ‘All Night Boogie (All Night Long) really lets the band shine especially the horn section. The beauty of listening to, watching and attending one of Bonamassa’s live shows is the space he gives his fellow musicians and the fluidity of it all.
After the ‘Muddy Wolf’ set, Joe performs a set of his own material with three songs from his new album ‘Different Shades of Blue’. ‘Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) featuring the intro from the Jimi Hendrix album ‘Rainbow Bridge’ was a flawless set opener. This is followed by ‘Oh Beautiful!’ which is quite dark in its delivery but a song driven by Anton Fig and ‘Love Ain’t a Love Song’ brings a little bit of Vegas to Colorado.
If you are an avid fan of blues music, it is important that you get your hands on this recording (even if Joe Bonamassa isn’t your cup of tea) because the music is so crucial for teaching the Joanne Shaw Taylors, Kirk Fletchers, Robin Trowers and Joe Bonamassas of the future about the genre and the people that built the foundations. In addition, I strongly recommend Joe Bonamassa’s Tour De Force ‘Blues Night’ show at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (on CD and DVD) for lovers of blues-rock soaked in horns.
Joe Bonamassa ‘Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks’ Live is released on Monday 23rd March on DVD, Blu-Ray, Vinyl and CD and is available to pre-order on www.mascotlabelgroup.com/Joe-Bonamassa