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The timeline is a little blurry, 2008 – 2009, and I’m sitting looking through the gig listings for my hometown of Belfast and there it is … Joe Bonamassa live in Belfast !!!  I am looking at all the plaudits surrounding the advertisement and all I can think is ….

” Who the F**k is Joe Bonamassa? ”


Fast forward to 2016 and here I am now reviewing his latest release “Blues of Desperation” on Provogue and believe me I know who Joe Bonamassa is now. He is one of the hardest working bluesmen today with an average of 150 live shows worldwide per year and as prolific a songwriter as you will ever find.


I mean it when I say it I regret now not making that ‘sold out’ gig in Belfast but my life has not been short of Bonamassa since, 2009 to 2016 Bonamassa has released no less than five solo studio albums – ‘Blues of Desperation’ his 6th to date – Three albums with Black Country Communion, two with Beth Hart and just for a bit of fun, eight live albums! Get the message? He is a machine. Pounding the roads, bringing the blues to fans worldwide whilst finding the time to pen album after album, collaboration after collaboration, and never undermining the quality of his work.


So here we are a new studio album to embrace in 2016 of all new original material and we all want to know what Bonamassa has up his sleeve this time. As it turns out a beautifully crafted blues album that encapsulates every nuance of his trademark approach to the blues. From the opening track ” This Train ” you get it right away. Up tempo, hard hitting, big production, big melody, no hanging around here. “This train don’t stop for no-one. This train gotta mind of it’s own! ”


Track two “Mountain Climbing” will probably be a fans favourite for years to come. A huge tune that hits you right in the face. Classic Bonamassa big riff, dirty, full of intent and exactly what you have come to expect of Joe. Catchy chorus and high energy, this tune will be huge live.


“Drive” is a different side to this album. Coming down from the high of “Mountain Climbing” you find yourself immersed in a sultry mesmerising melody & tempo that caresses the senses and draws you into its hypnotising rhythm. It’s a tune that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino movie as it leaves you feeling dirty and in need of a shower, for all the right reasons.


“No good place for the lonely” and title track “Blues of Desperation” are Joe at his guitar slinging best, showing off his mastery and prowess doing only what Joe can do. Immense control and bending ability that is his signature in his music, attacking every note pushing his guitar to its limits. “The Valley Runs Low” is a welcome break for the high intensity tracks and wouldn’t be out of place on Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan’s ‘Family Style’ album but it is short lived before you are thrown back into the fast paced “You left me nothin’ but the bill & the blues ”


“Distant Lonesome Train” again drags you right back into that gritty blues rock energy with a big rhythm and solo followed by the anthemic “How Deep This River Runs” with its choir like backing vocals to the fluid and captivating drum pattern, it’s another huge song on this carefully balanced album. Bonamassa wants to take you on a journey, and he certainly does with an array of approaches to the blues. No boundaries here. No hard or fast rules, and certainly no time to catch your breath either.


“Livin’ Easy”, reminiscent of Clapton’s unplugged album, brings the heart rate back down before the beautiful “What I’ve Known For A Very Long Time” concludes a beautifully crafted and executed album.


Bonamassa has delivered an album of real quality once again and has done so in his own way, by not standing still or replicating what he has done before. His long standing relationship with producer Kevin Shirley gives him a balance and consistency regardless of the limits he wishes to push. “Blues of Desperation” was recorded in Nashville over a five day period and in a live environment, and you get a real sense of that. The sound is huge and the very essence of this album is for the stage. A live audience and the fluidity these tracks will allow for when Joe hits that first note. There is a beautiful ethereal feel to the musicianship on this record and it ticks a lot of boxes that you’d expect to get with a Bonamassa album.


This album drags you kicking and screaming track after track and leaves you disheveled used and abused, just like every great blues album should.


Joe Bonamassa hits the UK for a select number of shows in the summer for a special “Salute to the British Blues Explosion”, an homage to Eric Clapton , Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Bonamassa will play Hoghton Tower, Lancashire (Saturday 2 July), Glasgow Clyde Auditorium (Sunday 3 July), Bristol Colston Hall (Tuesday 5 July), Greenwich London Music Time Festival (Thursday 7 July), and Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire (Friday 8 July).


Words by Mark Mc Grogan


Track Listing

This Train

Mountain Climbing


No Good Place For The Lonely

Blues Of Desperation

The Valley Runs Low

You Left Me Nothin’ But The Bill & The Blues

Distant Lonesome Train

How Deep This River Runs

Livin’ Easy

What I’ve Known For A Very Long Time