CD Reviews

Joe Bonamassa - 'Black Rock' Hot

Added by James Gaden     May 02, 2010    
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Tenth solo effort from the blues rock six stringer.

The king of strings has done it again with his tenth solo album ‘Black Rock’, this time with an added twist in the form of a new world music infusion which flows throughout the undercurrents of the album. The fact that this album was actually recorded in Greece definitely attributes to these exotic influences. The album title is taken from the black sand Greek island of Santorini. His successful partnership with producer Kevin Shirley (Black Crowes/Aerosmith), who works his magic with the evidently crisp and clean production of the album, makes this another gem in the 32 year old's discography, following the recent release of what in my mind was his greatest album 'Ballad Of John Henry'.
Most of the tracks are covers, with five originals all injected with Joe's unique style and added twists, starting with Bobby Parker's 'Steal Your Heart Away' which immediately sets the standard for the album with its stomping riffs and fresh approach. 'Quarryman's Lament' is a prime example of the fresh and experimental direction. A Grecian bouzouki and clarino accompany Joe's smooth and melodious vocals to be in my mind the best track of the album. It is also a direct follow on from his last album 'Ballad...' and demonstrates some fantastic acoustic playing. I was a little surprised to see a cover of Leonard Cohens 'Bird On A Wire' which is another that has had the Mediterranean treatment and is the slowest track on the album.
Joining Joe on this album is B.B King who duets on Willie Nelson's 'Nightlife'. This is such an uplifting and bouncy track that has you springing around. Basically, its the two of them jamming and you can tell they are having a ball. Their vocals compliment each other, with B.B's having that more soulful edge whilst Joe's are a lot smoother. Their guitar styles also are interesting as Joe attacks the song whilst B.B seems more laid back.
Concentrating on Joe's own tracks 'Wandering Earth', 'Athens To Athens' and 'Blue And Evil' you have to recognise that he is not just a great guitar technician but a solid songwriter. You can tell in the latter there are definitely some Led Zeppelin influences there, surrounded by some breath-taking guitar playing. Coming back to Otis Rush's 'Three Times A Fool' and James Clark's 'Look Over Yonder' there is definitely a Clapton feel to these which brings things down to a more bluesy groove.
Is it as good as 'Ballad...'? I would say they are both on a level par and should be recognised for their own individual strengths. He keeps the blues rock theme throughout Black Rock but you can definitely tell that he is starting to branch out into his own direction with his own unique sound and style and testing the waters through past influences.
Sonia Waterfield
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