Saturday, 19 May 2012

Joe Bonamassa: 'Driving Towards the Daylight' Review

It was merely two years ago when a friend announced excitedly that he had met Joe Bonamassa, an 'amazing blues guitarist.' I was completely unaware of Joe's immense cult status in the blues rock world and of his awesome talent. From being told about Bonamassa, I have developed a deep admiration for his music and was lucky enough to catch him live in Sheffield earlier this year. This was the setting where he announced he would be playing a brand new track live for the first time ever. This was to become the title track of his 13th studio album, 'Driving Towards the Daylight.' I have since been waiting in anticipation, and now I have finally had to chance to check out the new album, I would like to share my experience.

Joe's last studio album 'Dust Bowl' was always going to be a tough one to beat, even match. Joe has shaped his musical career mainly taking the songs of others and crafting his own unique takes on the originals. With 'Dustbowl,' Joe really demonstrated his ability to tell engaging stories through his lyrics and songwriting. It seems that with 'Driving Towards the Daylight,' he has taken a turn back to his roots. The album has a very pure blues feel throughout, containing only three original compositions.

The album begins with an original song titled 'Dislocated Boy.' We are immediately drawn in by Joe's classic rock flare with a hard hitting guitar riff. The style of this piece oozes Dust Bowl, the lyrics which seem to hint to us a story of working class struggle. One of the standout tracks for me is 'Stones in My Passway,' a Robert Johnson cover. Joe's version stays very true to the Mississippi delta blues sound, yet gets you stomping with a heavy 4/4 drumbeat. This track is followed by 'Driving Towards the Daylight.' Joe really shows maturity with this piece. There is at no stage within the song a blistering guitar solo, just a very dynamic and pure sounding composition with a heavy break towards the end of the song.

The album continues to take a venture in to the blues genre with covers by 'Howlin' Wolf' and 'Koko Taylor.' Another piece I would like to talk about towards the end of the album is the third Bonamassa original: 'Heavenly Soul.' In my view this is an interesting new direction which Joe has taken. The song itself bears a flamenco feel, very much like the bluesy spanish fusion style of Santana. The music is complemented by subtle vocal harmonies and a Bonamassa guitar solo of old, showcasing his technical ability and creative ear. This is followed my a dramatic minor blues cover titled 'New Coat of Paint.' This number boasts a fantastic keyboard solo introduction followed by some intense guitar work from Joe. The album closes with a Jimmy Barnes cover titled 'Too Much Ain't Enough Love' featuring the Scottish born Aussie himself on vocals. Jimmy Barnes is a rock vocalist in the band 'Cold Chisel.' He is one of most popular selling solo artists in Australia. With Joe he delivers a powerful album closer with his belting style of singing, complimented by the dynamic playing of Joe and his backing band. Bonamassa often invites guest artists to play on his albums, and his 13th album doesn't break the tradition.

Overall, Joe Bonamassa continues to develop and grow with each album. His songwriting is perhaps underrated as I consider him a great storyteller. On top of this his ability to produce his own unique takes on the songs of others is in my eyes a talent which equals his songwriting abilities. It seems that each of his albums bears a certain theme or feel. When I think of 'Driving Towards the Daylight', I think of a pure blues album fused with the classic rock edge he develop with the supergroup 'Black Country Communion.' I feel that his latest album possibly signifies best his individual style which is the result of an upbringing listening to British classic rock, combined with a passion for the blues.

If I were to rate the album, I personally would have to give 9.5/10

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