21 September 2018 (released)
03 September 2018
This is Bonamassa’s 13th solo studio album and really is up there amongst the best he has done.
There is an amazing sense of confidence and inner strength about the album – amazing because he often sounds as though he is asking the listeners for approval in his music and on this album he really has found another gear and is completely confident in what he is doing and saying.
Having seen him three times this year – twice solo and once with the reborn Black Country Communion – I have seen at first hand the changes in his approach and this album seems to represent the music he has been playing live, the horns and backup singers bringing extra depth to his sound.
But the music here crosses so many borders and styles that you are invigorated just by the freedom in his changes.
The kick off on ‘Evil Mama’ is wonderful with a brisk snare drum riff leading into a period of building the track with bass, horns laying down textures before he comes in with a growled vocal over the backing vocal, the whole number developing a powerful groove and rocking in a very Zeppelin way.
Then you have a track such as ‘Deep In The Blues Again’ where the driving rhythm had me turning the volume up and dancing around the room like a loon. Bonamassa’s guitar work on the track is sharp and fluid, Kevin Shirley introduced extra guitarists on the album to force Bonamassa into a more reactive place and you can really hear it here.
‘Pick Up The Pieces’ is a sleazy and louche number, very much in a New York Bar room spirit with muted trumpets from Lee Thornburg and Paulie Cerra, honky tonk piano from Reese Wynans. This was one of the tracks I returned to time and again.
The title track almost takes you back to ‘Sloe Gin’ days: Bonamassa on acoustic and a deep and dark number full of emotion and power. Great backing vocals from Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRea and Januita Tippins and really subtle percussion from Anton Fig. He wrings changes and builds and releases the tension throughout the number – it almost has a gospel feel to it in parts and a dark sense of loss at the very end. It may be the best number he has ever written.
I found myself going back to the album time and again for the sheer pleasure the music gave me, listening deeper and deeper into the music to pick out the layers – I| haven’t done that with a Joe Bonamassa album for a while.
All told, the album is a stunner, full of great numbers but really characterised by top playing and Bonamassa’s refound freedom and confidence.