Friday 21st September sees the release of the prolific Mr. Bonamassa’s 13th studio album, and whilst thirteen maybe unlucky for some, you just know this couldn’t possibly apply to one of today’s greatest Bluesmen.
We kick of with a very familiar drum intro and whilst the temptation may be to sing “Been a long time, been a long and lonely time” no one could possibly accuse JB of taking things slowly. Starting the year with gigs that would run through to Summer, followed by the stunning British Blues Explosion album and another impressive collaboration with Beth Hart, you can’t help but wonder just where he finds the time? Probably the most diverse album of his career there is a lot going on here with tinges of Gospel, Country and Soul, as well as the Blues Rock that we all know and love. So,after the initial nod to Led Zep, ‘Evil Mama’ is a low down bass driven track complete with horn section and trademark guitar solo, throw in some more Bonham-esque drumming and you have the perfect foot stomping way to open this collection of 12 brand new songs.
The last two Bonamassa shows I have been to have both opened with the Rockabilly ‘King Bee Shakedown’ although, admittedly, I thought the song was called ‘Good To See You’. A great, upbeat party like song, you can hear the fun the band are having on this number, which has been aching to be recorded and released for ages. It’s the perfect opening track on the setlist and probably will be for many tours to come.
The influences of last year’s excellent fourth album from Black Country Communion can be clearly heard on ‘Molly O’. The tale of a sinking ship and its fatalities, including the title character, with “her suitcase full of redemption”, It could almost be described as a Rocky/Blues sea shanty. From the waves and creaking ship intro through to its heavy riff and storming solo, this story driven song is an early highlight and should be placed firmly in the “Must Hear Live” file.
If ever you were asked to sum up Joe’s music in one song,you wouldn’t need to look much further than ‘Deep In The Blues Again’. A terrific track just right for radio. Commercial, Bluesy, upbeat with a driving rhythm and great vocals along with a catchy chorus, you can almost hear the crowd clapping along, an instant JB classic.
Things get taken down a notch for the weighty ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’ which, apparently, is a personal favourite of Joes. It’s certainly up there with some of his best work. As with the majority of the album, the overriding theme of looking for redemption runs heavily throughout the song, and with a solo that tugs on the heartstrings, by its conclusion, you could forgive the artist just about anything and grant him the mercy he so desperately seeks.
Time to lighten up proceedings with a bit of smoky late night Blues. ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ is a tongue in cheek story about a drunk with four ex-wives, trying to rebuild his life, (redemption once again). Although this may not sound like a lot of fun, it makes for a wonderfully infectious track and another album highlight.
Next we have a bit of a rarity, a duet on a Bonamassa solo album. ‘The Ghost Of Macon Jones’ sees Nashville country singer Jamey Johnson join JB on a tale of Renegades and Outlaws. The dangers of the cowboy life are brought to life in what can best be described as a train like Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Country song. It’s a prime example of an outstanding artist turning his hand to, and conquering yet another musical style.
More radio friendly upbeat Blues follows, this time with some brass thrown in for good measure. ‘Just Cos You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should’ is a signature Joe song, with a memorable hook which would fit comfortably into any live show. Yet another winner.
Where next? Well surely it has to be a bit of Gospel! The title track and overriding theme ‘Redemption’ sees us return in places to the opening song with its fleeting Led Zep touches, but manages to keep the Blues to the fore, as salvation and forgiveness runs deep throughout a song that can really only benefit from repeated listens.
Surely after such a personal and meaningful track, we deserve something a little lighter and with ‘I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters’ Joe duly delivers. The ups and downs of everyday life are covered on this mid paced song, which whilst certainly not a filler track is not the strongest on the album, however it keeps spirits up, which is no bad thing as the heartbreaking ‘Stronger Now In Broken Places’ follows shortly after. Stripped down to just an acoustic guitar, it’s JB at his most vulnerable. A real tear jerker and ode to the lonely, with the hope that things get better in time. If this appears in a forthcoming live set guys - better be ready with a hanky and the “I’ve got something in my eye” excuse. A classic piece of Joe.
Unbelievably we have arrived at the last track, and we finish on a high. The band are back in town for the traditional ‘Love Is A Gamble’ complete with a horn section, great piano from the exceptional Reese Wynans and of course the obligatory wonderful guitar solo. Everyone is allowed to shine as the album is brought to its close.
‘Redemption’ certainly ranks up there with the best in Joe Bonamassa’s ever growing catalogue. With so much going on, this beautifully layered album really is the gift that keeps on giving, with something new to discover on each listen. Looking forward to the Royal Albert Hall gigs in 2019, but knowing Joe, he’ll probably have released another three albums by then.