Album Review | JOE BONAMASSA – Different Shades of Blue

Review by Pete Coates
JB-DSOBJOE BONAMASSA – Different Shades of Blue
Release Date – 12th Sept 2014
J & R Adventures Records

Joe Bonamassa has produced an extraordinary range of blues and rock music in his career – whether as a solo artist, or in the blues rock fusion work of Black Country Communion. The common threads of all his work lie in the distinctive voice, and the pure but often slightly scuzzy guitar riffs, with the clean solos reminiscent of Gary Moore and Carlos Santana.

This album is the first where all of the songs are Bonamassa songs, produced by the legendary Kevin Shirley, and working with a number of established writers in Nashville, including Jonathan Cain (Journey), James House and Jerry Flowers, perhaps to try and capture the quite individual JB blues feel in a more commercial and contemporary way.

“Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” is short instrumental piece to open the album, heavy with Hammond Organ behind the slightly discordant guitar riff, leading into “Oh Beautiful” which opens with an uncharacteristic but haunting solo vocal, before kicking into a chunky blues-rock off-beat, which soon develops into something of a jazz-rock blues fusion piece, with a Santana feel to the organ, bass and drums that allow JB to deliver a lead guitar line building up to a Led Zeppelin-ish crescendo, and back into the opening riff and closing with the vocal refrain, the whole thing nicely symmetrical.

“Love Ain’t a Love Song” is a more upbeat track, with accents from the brass section and some massed backing vocals bringing something of a Motown feel, without losing the blues feeling. As soon as “Living on the Moon” starts, it brings Booker T’s Green Onions to mind – driving rhythm guitar and a growling persistent blues line that shares the lead with the brass section.

A moodier guitar line, still slightly dirty in true JB style, leads into “Heartache Follows Wherever I Go”, which shows off his powerful voice in the chorus, and features a cracking solo that I can’t wait to see live. Lots of light and shade in this track, but with that raunchy guitar always prominent.

Grand chords and soaring guitar open up “Never Give All Your Heart”, which is a familiar JB blues ballad – similar to older JB songs, with the distinctive vocal delivery, and the trademark piercingly clean solo and lead guitar weaving through the song.

The more traditional honky-tonk blues of “I Gave Up Everything for You” is a real change of atmosphere on the album – and takes you back to the familiar refrain of the sad and abandoned blues-man, with nothing but his guitar to rely on. A blistering solo, and then another one to close the song, with some great piano playing as well.

The title track is a bit lower key, with some atmospheric multi-layers guitars leading into an almost country-rock blues ballad, again showing what a strong voice JB has developed, and with a very catchy chorus. “Get Back My Tomorrow” reverts to the grungy fuzzy guitars over a tight rhythm section, with more of a BCC feel to the song, perhaps stemming from the prominent Hammond again as well as the vocal delivery.

“Trouble Town” features drummer Anton Fig with a neat off-beat backing to the brass-driven melody, leading in to a hybrid traditional blues / funk mash-up which just keeps rolling along, with some interesting lead guitar work in the middle-eight solo.

Album closer “So What Would I Do” is perhaps the only disappointment of the 11 songs, not because there is anything wrong with a slow mellow blues ballad, but perhaps because of the variety, quality and upbeat nature of the rest of the album.

From the advance promotion on the album, I was expecting a more experimental feel than the familiar Joe Bonamassa voice and impeccable guitar playing, but while there is the heavy involvement of strings, brass and backing vocals throughout, the album is very much a Joe Bonamassa creation of the highest quality.

Release Date – 12th Sept 2014
J & R Adventures Records

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