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Joe Bonamassa – Redemption Review

Released by: Provogue/Mascot Label Group in Europe and J&R Adventures in North America

Release date: 21 September 2018

Genre: Blues-Rock



Joe Bonamassa: vocals, guitars

Anton Fig: drums

Kenny Greenberg: guitars

Doug Lancio: guitars

Michael Rhodes: bass

Reese Wynans: keyboards, piano

Lee Thornburg: horns

Paulie Cerra: horns

Jamey Johnson: guest musician, vocals

Jim Moginie: guest musician, keyboards

Kate Stone: guest musician, hand pan

Gary Pinto: harmony vocals

Mahalia Barnes: backing vocals

Jade McRae: backing vocals

Juanita Tippins: backing vocals

Track Listing:

1. Evil Mama

2. King Bee Shakedown

3. Molly O’

4. Deep In The Blues Again

5. Self-Inflicted Wounds

6. Pick Up The Pieces

7. The Ghost Of Macon Jones

8. Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should

9. Redemption

10. I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters

11. Stronger Now In Broken Places

12. Love Is A Gamble

Two-time Grammy nominated blues-rocker and guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa is often referred to as the hardest working man in the blues. It is easy to understand why considering he has built up a sizeable resume which includes 12 studio albums, 16 live albums, 4 collaborative albums, a number of guest spots with the likes of Water Trout, Europe, Bernie Marsden, Johnny Winter, as well Jimmy Barnes, and is a key member of the super-group Black Country Communion. In addition to this, Joe owns and runs his own record label, management, and concert promotions company called J&R Adventures, which he founded with long-time manager Roy Weisman. If that wasn’t already enough, Joe founded the Keeping The Blues Alive foundation to offset the loss of music education programs throughout schools in the Unites States. He also hosts a weekly podcast called The Pickup, which is a radio show for fellow guitar players and music lovers alike. And finally, Joe travels the world, touring relentlessly – something which also allows him to expand his ever growing collection of guitars, amps and music memorabilia which he displays in his Nerdville museum. It makes you wonder how he has the time to fit in creating another solo album, but once you’ve listened to Joe’s latest magnum opus, you’ll be glad he did.

Title track “Redemption” is pure Delta Blues, modernised and expertly executed by Bonamassa’s effortless musicianship. Opening the track with ‘She took the fire as she was leaving, no forgiveness and no confession, now I’m sifting through the cold grey ashes, looking for peace and my redemption,” it really sets the tone for the entire album, which features twelve deeply personal songs which Joes explains reflects “some other stuff in my life I didn’t expect to be going through. It’s a rising, it’s contrition, it’s acceptance, it’s everything. It’s painful, but knowing that there’s a rising coming.”

With an intro that channels Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n Roll”, “Evil Mama” progresses into a funky rhythm guitar grove with a pulsating blues line, punchy drums, soulful vocals, and bright brass heavy horn riffs against that signature Bonamassa guitar sound. Followed by “King Bee Shakedown” which is a pure rockabilly-boogie-woogie blues diddy that will have you bopping along with pure abandon, I can’t help but picture the legendary Blues Brother John Belushi bouncing around on stage in his epic King Bee costume every time I hear this song. With deep, rolling, progressive rock riffs and harmonised vocals, you can really hear the influence of Joe working with his Black Country Communion bandmates again on “Molly O’”. Next up we have “Deep In The Blues Again”, which evokes an energetic rhythm in the spirit of classic Steve Earle and his Copperhead Road album. “Self-Inflicted Wounds” is a poignant song that cuts to the bone, and really reflects Joe’s development as a singer-songwriter. Not since “Sloe Gin” have I felt such a sense of loss and hurt in one of his songs, and the clever orchestration of the track makes that feeling resonate to your core as you are swept away by the story he is telling.

“Pick Up The Pieces” is a Cab Calloway style blues shuffle driven along by haunting lap-steel, the ghostly echoes of western saloon piano, and the smoky saxophone rising languidly over jazzy guitar riffs. It is one of the more quirky songs on the album, but it is one of my favourites. Sharing vocals with Nashville country singer Jamey Johnson, “The Ghost of Macon Jones” is a cautionary story in the tradition of the classic blues greats. Never one to take himself too seriously, in “I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters”, Joe regales us with a tongue-in-cheek tale of his latest trials and tribulations. “Stronger Now In Broken Places” is a truly moving song featuring a stripped-back, atmospheric acoustic vibe that allows Joe’s vocal prowess to shine, as the guitar sets a melancholy melody allowing him to paint an intimate portrait of loss and renewal. This is by far the stand-out track on the album and will be stunning live. And finally, “Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should”, and closing track “Love Is A Gamble” are modern blues-rock expositions in the tradition of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Gary Moore, as well as Walter Trout, and round out what is an outstanding album.

Suggesting that that Redemption reflects some of the best collaborative writing he has done to date, Joe added, “I really feel the new material is deeper, lyrically and musically! We try to get a little deeper every time we come out.” Recorded at a number of locations, including The Cave in Sydney Australia, Blackbird and Addiction Sounds Studios in Nashville Tennessee, the Criteria Hit Factory in Miami Florida, and Studio At The Palms in Las Vegas Nevada, producer Kevin Shirely said that Redemption, “is a brand-new look at the Blues, in what is clearly Joe’s deepest and darkest most personal album yet, which is a masterpiece of desperation – melodic and cinematic in this presentation.” There is no doubt when listening to this phenomenal album that it encapsulates a journey that Joe has gone through. It is relayed to the listener in a vulnerable, and at times raw way which draws you in and takes you to new musical horizons, which Joe explains is, “this yearning to redeem yourself after just this tremendous loss and this tremendous feeling of pain.” It is empowering, and accurately captures the pain and the struggle of someone who is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a terrible loss. Redemption is Joe Bonamassa’s thirteenth studio album, following the release of the most excellent Blues of Desperation two years ago. A plush, superbly mixed, and masterfully executed production, it firmly cements Joe Bonamassa’s place as the reigning King of the Blues. To date, Joe has had 14 #1 Billboard Blues albums, and I’m certain that Redepmption will be #15.

Written by: Erik De’Viking

Ratings: 10/10

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