As Joe Bonamassa grows his reputation as one of the world’s greatest guitar players, he is also evolving into a charismatic blues-rock star and singer-songwriter of stylistic depth and emotional resonance. His ability to connect with live concert audiences is transformational, and his latest two projects, brand new solo album Driving Towards The Daylight (J&R Adventures) and live CD Joe Bonamassa: Beacon Theatre– Live Fom New York (J&R Adventures), capture the magnetism and maturity Bonamassa showcases as an artist.
Driving Towards The Daylight – his “lucky” 13th album – is a balanced back-to-basics album that highlights Bonamassa’s signature style of roots blues with rock-and-roll guts, while honoring the traditions of the original blues musicians. It features special guests including Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and has received knock-out reviews: MSN.com calls it “nothing less than astounding;” American Songwriter ranks Bonamassa “among our greatest living guitar players,” and All Music Guide said “the arrangements and guitars mesh together like whiskey and soda.” Across the pond, UK’s Guitar & Bass says its “one of his best;” The Sun calls Bonamassa’s playing “jawdropping;” Guitarist said “his guitar, voice and songs are simply better than ever.”
Joe Bonamassa: Beacon Theatre – Live Fom New York is a live CD, out Sept. 25, 2012, that captures the stunning two-night sold-out set at New York City’s legendary Beacon Theatre, and features special guests Paul Rodgers, John Hiatt, and Beth Hart. It is the companion piece to the DVD/Blu-ray, released in March 2012, which includes a bonus disc of special features with two extra songs, behind the scenes footage, and photo gallery. PBS and Palladia HD began airing the show nationwide in March and it debuted at #3 on the Billboard DVD Chart (just under Adele and Iron Maiden).
Bonamassa has been steadily building his career with each year being better than the last. In 2011, he released Dust Bowl, which combined the gritty, blues-based tones of Bonamassa’s first albums with the fluid, genre-defying sounds he’s mastered in the years since and adds a dash of country from Joe’s collaborations with Nashville legends Vince Gill and John Hiatt. It quickly received an abundance of glowing critical acclaim and was featured on a number of 2011 “Best Of” lists.
He was honored as 2011’s “Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar International and is frequently honored in Guitar Player Magazine’s Annual Readers’ Choice Awards, having won “Best Blues Guitarist” five consecutive years and “Best Overall Guitarist” in 2010. He was named Billboard’s #1 Blues Artist in 2010 based on the charting success of Black Rock, the #2 Billboard Blues Album of 2010, and 2009’s Ballad of John Henry, which was #9. In June 2010, he played the main stage at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago and in October of the same year he released Joe Bonamassa: Live At The Royal Albert Hall – a live CD of his epic performance in 2009 at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Bonamassa splits his time with a number of side projects including the hard rock band Black Country Communion with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. BCC released their debut self-titled album in September 2010, entering the Billboard Top 200 Chart at #53 and receiving stellar reviews. MOJO gave the album four stars and Goldmine said it’s “possibly the best hard rock album of 2010.” A mere nine months later, the band released their sophomore album, 2 which the Sunday Mercury raved: “This is classic rock goes large, an album that lives up to its heritage. It may not be bettered this year.” The band then released their first live concert DVD/Blu-ray/CD Live Over Europe which was filmed over three nights in Germany. Just named “Best New Band of the Last 10 Years” by VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, the group recorded a third studio album, Afterglow, set for release on October 30, 2012.
Bonamassa also collaborated with vocal powerhouse Beth Hart on an album of soul covers called Don’t Explain, released in fall of 2011. It features Hart’s scorching interpretations of ten songs from artists such as Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Ray Charles, Tom Waits and Etta James; with Bonamassa on guitar and his ace band filling out the tracks.
A child prodigy, Bonamassa was finessing Stevie Ray Vaughan licks when he was seven and by the time he was ten, had caught B.B. King’s ear. After first hearing him play, King said, “This kid’s potential is unbelievable. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. He’s one of a kind.” By age 12, Bonamassa was opening shows for the blues icon and went on to tour with venerable acts including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman.
Bonamassa’s recording career began in the early ’90s with Bloodline, a hard-charging rock-blues group also featuring Robby Krieger’s son Waylon and Miles Davis’ son Erin. His 2000 solo debut, A New Day Yesterday, was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd; Bonamassa’s rendering of the title track, originally a Jethro Tull hit, was called, “a jaw-dropping performance” by AllMusic.com.
2010’s Black Rock debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart and cracked the U.S. Top 40 – at that time a first in Bonamassa’s career – coming in at #38. The album added an enlivening dose of ‘world’ vibes to Bonamassa’s virtuoso mix of ‘60s-era British blues-rock (à la Beck and Clapton) and roots-influenced Delta sounds. The album was recorded at Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece. “With this album, we wanted to explore a ‘world’ feeling, and this was the inspiration behind going to record in Greece and using some of the best Greek musicians to add a little flavor to a couple of the tracks. But it’s by no means a ‘world’ album. We wanted Joe’s usual youthful and energetic tones to play alongside the worldly vibes of the Greek bouzouki and clarino,” said Shirley. Bonamassa adds, “It was the kind of record Kevin and I wanted to make. We needed to rock again a bit like on my first album. It’s youthful, like going back to your childhood.”
2009 coincided with Bonamassa’s twentieth year as a professional musician, an extraordinary timeline for a young artist just into his ’30s. His album The Ballad Of John Henry – with no shortage of its own jaw-dropping moments – debuted at #1 on the Billboard blues chart and stayed there for six months. The album marked a more confessional approach to song craft than he’d previously employed. “Making the first half of the album,” Bonamassa says, “I was in the happiest place I’d ever been in my life. The second half found me in completely the opposite state. I’ve come to the conclusion that experience makes for better art. I had more to say, and it’s the first time I’ve personally opened up the book on my life.”
In May 2009, he played to a sold out crowd at London’s Royal Albert Hall, arguably the most prestigious concert venue in the world. During the show, Bonamassa’s hero, Eric Clapton, joined him on stage for a joint-performance of Clapton’s hit “Further On Up The Road.” London’s The Independent said about the show, “The man has arrived, and there’s no turning back.” Shortly after, Bonamassa released a 2-DVD live set – Joe Bonamassa – Live From The Royal Albert Hall – which captures the night in full. Guitar Edge gave it five stars and said, “It is the wallop of his emotional expression, fueled by the rocking energy he derives from that trans-Atlantic connection and driven by his devastating technical ability that elevates him about his peers and makes him a certifiable blues guitar hero and the face of his blues generation.”
Ending 2009 with a bang, he was awarded the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award at the U.K.’s prestigious Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards. Classic Rock magazine said, “They’re calling him the future of blues, but they’re wrong – Joe Bonamassa is the present; so fresh and of his time that he almost defines it.”
Previous studio sets include 2007’s Sloe Gin, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s blues chart and received a 2008 nod for Album Of The Year from the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour Awards. Sloe Gin careens between heavy electric blues-rockers and acoustic, folk-etched cuts in a flow that Bonamassa says was partly inspired by Rod Stewart’s classic 1969 solo debut LP. The Boston Phoenix called it, “an elegant and brawny guitar-hero album.”
Bonamassa circles the globe playing an average of 200 shows a year, and his mind-blowing guitar wizardry and electrifying stage presence are selling out progressively larger venues all the time. Ben Wener from The Orange County Register said, “I haven’t seen anything so dazzling since Steve Ray Vaughan at the Wiltern in ’86.” The Columbus Dispatch hailed a recent show as “a night of wailing, energy-drenched solos that never ceased to impress” while the Reading Eagle called it a “tour de force performance steeped in blues.” The Grand Rapids Press said Joe is “in a league of his own as the best blues man of his era.”
Ongoing journeyman touring is a given, and looking beyond Driving Towards The Daylight, Bonamassa will continue his recording collaboration with producer Kevin Shirley, who says, “It’s great working with Joe and seeing him enjoy the discovery of all these places he can go. He’s an artist who can play anything; there are so many facets to him.” Bonamassa adds, “Kevin comes up with fantastic ideas outside the box. He appreciates the blues, but pushes me, the only person besides Tom Dowd who’s done that.”
Bonamassa is emerging as one of the most important of the next generation of guitar icons, driving sales for the guitar industry and keeping the guitar alive by helping great companies like Guitar Center, Gibson, Epiphone, Ernie Ball, Dunlop, Seymour Duncan, Clear Sonic and Klotz Cables, all of whom have signature products with the guitar phenom. Bonamassa’s style of guitar has breathed new life and excitement back into the instrument as legions of new fans are becoming familiar again with the great sound of guitar-based rock music.
“Joe is unquestionably among our greatest living guitarists, destined to be counted among the greatest of all-time.” – The Orange County Register