It becomes more and more difficult to honestly review Joe Bonamassa these days. He is a massive star in his own right and his ‘side-projects’ with Glenn Hughes, Rock Candy or Beth Hart have had as much attention as the man himself. There are thousands (millions?) who believe that he is the greatest living guitarist but also many who claim he is a hype-ridden hack who looks better than he plays.
Am I reviewing this dispassionately or if he was Willie Widdledick would I give a damn about this album?

So I try and fool myself that this is indeed by Willie Widdledick and I listen through and I listen again and at the third pass I give up the imagining and simply give in to some bloody fine Blues by a guy who can play, sing and looks good in a suit!

This is Bonamassa’s 11th album under solely his name and the first featuring only tracks he has written or been involved in writing. It feels as though he is trying to take all the different styles that he learned from and put out an album that is ‘Bonamassa plus’ – it is definitely the work of one man as a lead but also brings in his influences and as such is probably his most honest and complete album ever.

He is, and always will be, a supreme guitar technician but here the sound is full of soul and heart and he manages to balance the skills that some perceive as showing off with some brilliantly conceived and heartfelt material. The styles vary track to track but the album swings and zips with real freedom and verve – it sounds as though he has lost interest in trying to satisfy the haters and just play music that he loves to play and it works.

Listening to a track like ‘Trouble Town’; soulful rock with great horns and real power and all the funk of Little Feat wrapped into a number that should just be a blast live or in the car.
Or the funk groove of ‘Love Ain’t a Love Song’ with a huge driving bass line and ratatatat drums.
He gets in a real Blues in ‘I Gave Up Everything for You, ‘Cept The Blues’ and a wonderful 12 String Blues in the title track.

Frankly if this was by Willie Widdledick I’d probably give it the same rating as I do here but the fact that it is by Bonamassa is almost more surprising – it is a cracking listen.