Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation

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Blues of Desperation is at the same time Joe's rawest expression of the myriad of pure blues styles for a while and his biggest advancement of his sound in years. Even on Different Shades of Blue, an album which declared itself purely about the blues, it was really just more of the same, and things felt very polished. Here the only polished thing on offer is Joe's naturally-smooth voice (and those of his trio of backing singers). Everything else sounds full, clear, and authentically raw; a rich sound without that horrible emptiness Kevin Shirley's mixes often have. This is also a very immediate, engaging album with some fresh new sounds. All of the songs are catchy and easy to pick up, without lacking any of Joe's trademark guitar histrionics that his fans love him for, with additional instruments, use of a theremin, strings, unusual percussion, and non-standard grooves. The big riff of Mountain Climbing (indeed a lead riff Leslie West himself would be proud of) is the album's first highlight after the upbeat opener This Train, before the Cowboy-Western feel of Drive (think Jon Bon Jovi's Blaze of Glory album from 'Young Guns II', but with bluesier overtones instead of '80s rock) and the eight-minute blues workout of No Good Place For The Lonely which is backed by some sparing, but urgent and uplifting strings and the requisite slow blues solo later on. The theremin gets its moment to shine (adding Eastern touches at some points) on the off-kilter title track which is driven by funky bass, then it's all change again for the acoustic folk-blues of The Valley Runs Low. Boogie blues on You Left Me With Nothin' But The Bill And The Blues, then another dark, riff-based track over tribal drumming on Distant Lonesome Train, and closing with jazz piano and horns on Livin' Easy and What I've Known For A Very Long Time ensure the second half of the album continues the same huge variation of sounds and styles as the first half, all joined together by Joe's voice and guitar. This is his best album since The Ballad of John Henry, but far.

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2016, Albums, Blues, Quickplay Reviews,

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