Friday, February 15, 2008

Interview with Joe Bonamassa

Throughout a musical career which has already spanned over 2 decades, Joe Bonamassa, at the still young age of 30, has been producing the music of which legends are made. First picking up the guitar at age 4, by age 8 he was gigging regularly in upstate New York then opening up for reigning king of the blues B.B. King at the age of 12 . While still in his teens, he formed the band Bloodline with Berry Oakley Jr, signing to EMI records and releasing a well received self titled debut album. Despite initial success, the band eventually disbanded, with Bonamassa releasing his first acclaimed solo effort in 2000, the Tom Dowd produced 'A New Day Yesterday'. Featuring hard, bruising covers of British blues rock classics alongside more traditional blues offerings and strong originals, the die was cast - one featuring out of this world guitar wizardry in the grand rock tradition of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher and Hendrix on a collision course with B.B. King and Buddy Guy. One of the hardest working musicians in the business, racking up upwards of over 200 dates a year, he's acquired and built his following the hard way, overcoming an ever declining music scene.

With the constant touring and recording over the past seven years, the accolades have been rightfully rolling in on a consistent basis. Lauded by critics, fans and fellow musicians alike, he was voted, along with Buddy Guy, as Guitar Player Magazine's Blues Guitarist Of The Year 2007 in the reader's poll. Things are snowballing on an upwards scale rapidly. Guitar One Magazine has stated that that he, "just might be the best guitarist of his generation." His image is popping up on more and more magazine covers, which goes a long way in illustrating his ever burgeoning popularity. If current trends continue, it would be a fairly safe bet that there will be a Grammy Award (or two) in the not too distant future as well .

Now Bonamassa is back with with his sixth studio release 'Sloe Gin'. Featuring eleven tracks ranging from rousing, hard driving rockers such as "Ball Peen Hammer" and "Dirt In My Pocket", the"Layla"-esque Southern rock stylings of "One Of These Days", monumental slow blues as on the epic title track, to more contemplative acoustic based fare found on "Richmond" or "Around The Bend", it's easily the most diverse album of his already illustrious career. Produced superbly once again by Kevin"The Caveman" Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Black Crowes), the album serves as an excellent calling card for his prodigious abilities, both as a guitarist and a vocalist. One which in time will likely be seen as a benchmark against which future offerings in the blues rock genre will be compared against.

Recently I was fortunate to catch up with Joe during the sound check on the eve of a hometown show in Utica, New York, where the guitarist had just received news that the album had debuted at #1 on Billboard's Blues Chart, #10 on the Top Internet Albums Chart, #4 on the Heatseeker Chart, #24 on The Top Independent Albums Chart and #184 on The Billboard Top 200 (the latter being the best showing to date for this incredibly gifted artist who is taking the blues kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.) Read on as we have a candid conversation with one of today's true guitar legends, Joe Bonamassa....

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