Joe Bonamassa – Looking Inwards, Playing Out

A new Bonamassa album called Redemption is out now on Mascot/Provogue and Pete heard some of the songs performed at Hampton Court Palace, but takes the opportunity to catch up with Joe and discuss the collection…

Jen Rosenstein

Hi Pete, how are you doing?

Hmm…just on YouTube hearing a youth brass band playing Zappa’s Zomby Woof.

A cool find! Trust you…

Just to mention, Glenn and I were at the Hampton Court Palace show

Oh yeah! A few weeks back, by the river…that’s good..I like that setting

Without BS, that was the best show we have seen you do

Thanks man! I can tell you the band has really been on fire the last few months..well, the last year to be fair to them.

It’s not as if you’ll find better players anywhere, but to gel on this new material the way they do..and we know that’s what you’re known for..now, this Redemption record, I thought the subtitle should be Stronger Now In Broken Places, one of the songs. The song titles do read like Johnny Cash numbers!

(Ponders) Yes, you could say that…

Is there anything in particular that has prompted the content of the record? It’s markedly different from your older releases

Well, y’know every now and again my fans let me set the ReSet Button every ten years or so and do fresh things amongst the material. So this and Blues Of Desperation, they do kind of trigger the ReSet. Revitalising the catalogue as it grows and just going in slightly different directions here and there. I find that as long as every few minutes on each record I let myself have a vehicle for some guitar playing in an expressive vein, let’s say, over blues-rock changes then everybody is cool with it.

You can’t turn your back on what made you popular..but you can explore the songwriting side

What made me popular?

Yes, the guitar skills and the way you throw yourself into what you do

Yeah, yeah I would agree with that.

When asked what you are like and what you’re about, I do say Joe doesn’t do half-hearted

Exactly ! it works when you put your all into what you are doing. You do it, you gotta do all the way. Otherwise, why bother?

The crowd know if you’re woodshedding, anyway. Let’s talk about some songs, Joe if we can..Evil Mama has this great stomping drum intro..there seems to be a strong Tower Of Power tinge to the song

Well Lee Thornburg our trumpet player, he was in Tower of Power over ten years, so if we opt to give him that groove That song there in particular….there’s very few grooves that over time we haven’t experimented with, as a unit. But one was that What Is Hip active rhythm. It’s difficult to write songs of that style straight out, takes some thought, some mapping. Evil Mama kinda felt right in the sense of it all, to do the song that way, that dynamic. When we were originally recording that one, we were in half-time. I said let’s drive it up, we did, it turned out great!

I used to do their song Only So Much Oil In The Ground…very prophetic! Way ahead of its time

(Enthused) Oh! The band were way ahead of their time! Them, The Average White Band, all those magical horn bands..

I also liked Mandrill, their scope was global, kind of before World Music as it’s known now…King Bee Shakedown, I really like this ! That boogie sound – and the first time I sensed a Rory Gallagher kind of lick happening in there..in your music

Ha! the downwards run…when you record with a band that does a hundred and ten shows a year you can capture the feel pretty quickly

The backing vocals are superb

Yeah. Mahalia..and Juanita. It’s symbiotic, it’s a proper band. Not just a bunch of session musicians doing a job.

Molly O – almost sounds like a Black Country Communion job. The dynamic.

I do write differently for BCC, just naturally, it’s nor premeditated in any sense. It could have been on the last Communion record really, yes. I had Song Of Yesterday on that and that mood…

I was thinking that Glenn Hughes would like this one and the arrangement…

Yes, I think he would…he’s doing so well at present, really kicking *ss…he’s got that Deep Purple thing happening..I have not seen the man happier in the ten years that I have known Glenn

The vocal arrangements that you’ve come up with for Deep In The Blues Again..just fabulous! The song for me is sort of Bob Seger-ish…

Yeah, a little bit. So again that’s Mahalia Barnes along with Jade, Juanita…they really groove together, as you say.

Self Inflicted Wounds – sounds like your most eerie song since maybe Dust Bowl. I think it’s the best vocal on the record. I love the space in this track, no filling space for the sake of it

We were down in Havana. It was just one of those songs…y’know I think everyone in their life has a moment when they have to ponder their role, their actions in their fate. I wanted just to address that concept..

That Johnny Cash vibe, this is where it seems to come through..if you hear him singing Hurt..it’s that Man In The Mirror point

You do have to look at yourself, I think that’s one of the better songs I have been involved with. In a long time. That’s maybe the best song, for me

I like the contrast with the Old Timey jazzy atmosphere on Pick Up The Pieces, it sits well at that point in the sequencing

(Laughs) That’s sorbet! You have to give ‘em sorbet…

I was expecting Dr John to start singing!

Yeah it’s a touch of Tom Waits, too – I think Reese really shines on that, on the piano

A quick aside, how is the Wynans own album progressing?

It’s almost done, I gotta finish it this month. Each song is already mixed and I think it’s killer, it’s a great record. He’s very proud of it

I’m looking forward to that.

All I will say is that it’s NOT what you might expect out of a solo keyboard player’s record!

The more brave people are the more I like it, you know how I am. What’s this Albert King thing on Just Cos You Can?

Oh, I wanted to write an Albert kinda song! I did two versions of it at the first rehearsal and the first one had more Albert stuff going on, like the Three Kings tribute sound I tapped in to. And the second time we did it changed gear a tad and there was more shredding happening over the end..

It sounds like it was from the AK session for Cadillac Assembly Line

Yes! that early 70s sound, very funky! I always loved that Albert King get funky album

With the smoke, I know it…Redemption itself, it’s quite a twilight sound isn’t it? Very desolate, but also a bass register adventure..

(Sighs) Now there I was writing with Dion, of all people!

Di Mucci? Great bluesman!

It was great to collaborate with Dion and James House..we have done a bit of writing together over time..it’s turned out pretty honest

A very striking song and I think that’s going to become quite a concert favourite. Now the song that really got to me was Stronger Now In Broken Places. To me, it’s like a dream..I know there’s an optimistic twist to it..where was your head when you wrote that?

I wrote it with Gary Nicholson and he had this great lyric lying around, so we recorded that a few ways, just to see what. It was recorded with the electric band but ended up working somewhat better as an acoustic song. We were going really for the Tears In Heaven kinda treatment. I think ultimately that approach showcases the song better than in alternative settings.

It is quite a delicate song, you could over-sing it if you weren’t careful..

Exactly, exactly.

So on this record I was never sure what might be coming next, which is what I want from a record..it’s too easy to give your following what they already like, but you fight against that

I do want to run against doing the obvious all the time, yes. There are fans who just want another burst of Blues De Luxe and I’m OK with that, but these days, Pete – I’d rather have a catalogue of songs where people say ‘ I didn’t know you wrote this, I didn’t know you wrote that..’ to concentrate on songs but also give people the playing they enjoy hearing, as well..think of the artists you really respect..Rory Gallagher, Hendrix..it’s that catalogue of songs..that to me is what separates artists.

Pete Sargeant



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(Many thanks to Joe)

Feature Image and Joe Bonamassa Press Photo Credit: Jen Rosenstein

Live Photos Credit: Laurence Harvey

Glenn Hughes And Joe Bonamassa Photo Credit: Eric Duvet Photography

Joe Bonamassa’s new studio album ‘Redemption’ is  out now and released worldwide  by Provogue/Mascot Label Group and J&R Adventures.

For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/1TFtO30

You can read all of our Bonamassa articles here: http://bit.ly/1R6cul9

In addition, Joe Bonamassa will perform three UK concerts in October 2018 and four UK concerts in April 2019. 

The UK legs of Joe Bonamassa’s European/UK Tour will visit the following venues: 

 

Thursday 11th October 2018 – Plymouth Pavilions, Plymouth, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2mmVBrR

Friday 12th October 2018 – Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2nDCety

Saturday 13th October 2018 – Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), Bournemouth, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2ecFERn

 

 

Monday 22nd April 2019 – SEC Armadillio, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2nibMuL

Wednesday 24th April 2019 – The Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2p2IG2t

Thursday 25th April 2019- The Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2p2IG2t

Friday 26th April 2019 – The Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2p2IG2t