Joe Bonamassa is back with powerful new release

Blues of Desperation breaks with his past

By David Sands
April 1, 2016

After a two-year hiatus, blues rocker Joe Bonamassa has returned with a new album that has him breaking his own mold. The guitarist’s twelfth solo recording, Blues of Desperation, is notable for its heavy sound, twin drum section and radical change of gear; this time around, he’s tossed out his regular Marshall amps in favor of some vintage Fender tweeds.

“I just turned 38 years old and have been making solo records for 15 years and decided that I just can’t keep using the same playbook,” Bonamassa says in a behind-the-scenes video.

Like his last record, 2014’s Different Shades of Blue, Bonamassa composed this one in Nashville, relying on the talents of some of the town’s great songwriters, including James House, Tom Hambridge, Jeffrey Steele, Jerry Flowers and Gary Nicholson.

“These are some of the best guys in the business,” Bonamassa says in a release. “Lyrically, you’ll hear the proverbial trains, mountains, valleys and other blues references about heartbreak and loneliness but there are also some poignant moments about getting away from the stressful, crazy demands of life and losing yourself with your special someone. I think anybody will be able to relate.”

With producer Kevin Shirley, the guitarist then headed to Nashville’s Grand Victor Sound Studios where he spent five days recording with a band that included bassist Michael Rhodes, keyboardist Reese Wynans, horn players players Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra and Mark Douthit and two drummers Anton Fig and Greg Morrow—a new addition his producer added to “ruffle Joe’s feathers.” Backup singers Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins also contribute their vocal skills to the project.

Together they’ve cooked up 11 tunes, including the thunderous title track “Blues of Desperation,” which has a heavy metal feel that’s a little reminiscent of Tool and Rage Against the Machine. Other standouts include the chugging blues anthem, “This Train;” the soulful ballad, “What I’ve Known for a Very Long Time;” and the gospel-tinged “The Valley Runs Low.”
Not to be overlooked either are Bonamassa’s own considerable talents. A guitar prodigy who opened for B.B. King when he was just 12, the now-38-year-old is no slouch when it comes to conjuring up stellar licks on his new release.

“There are some long solos on this record and even some mini-jams in the middle of a track where the band would just jive and crank it out,” he says. “[During those jams], we do a tip of the hat to Beck and Clapton from the ’70s. I think guitar nerds and music fans like myself will love it.”

Title: Blues of Desperation
Artist: Joe Bonamassa
Release Date: March 25, 2016
Label: J&R Adventures