Album review: Dust Bowl/Joe Bonamassa

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Album review: rock

If you look to current blues artists for something different, you will generally be disappointed. If you look to the blues with the view that, like jazz, it has found its perfect expression and has no need to evolve further, you will love this album.

Blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa has achieved a kind of perfection of expression with his latest, Dust Bowl. His guitar playing is at its apex – from child-prodigy via endless gigs the road has led him here. There are still passages that stagger belief, but Bonamassa’s gift has always been to give you what you want – bigger, better, more distilled. Unlike too many of his contemporaries, his music has never lost its heart. Hence his appeal beyond teenage boys and guitar magazines.

Dust Bowl grabs you from the howling slide storm of opener ‘Slow Train’. A couple more tracks in and Bonamassa is swapping chicken-pickin’ with Nashville master, Vince Gill on ‘Tennessee Plates’.

‘The Meaning of the Blues’ moves into Led Zep territory – all humbuckers and heroics – which is hardly surprising considering Dust Bowl is produced by Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes). This track was this reviewer’s hit pick – the feeling of live spontaneity is so strong that when it all falls away after Bonamassa’s roaring solo you almost expect an audience member to yell approval. I know I did.

Bonamassa’s predilection for ‘70’s British blues is well known and it is a treat to see him tip his hat to the late Paul Kossoff in his affectionate cover of Free’s ‘Heartbreaker’. The British connection is doubled with the guest vocal on this track being Glenn Hughes, ex-Deep Purple, with whom Bonamassa plays in the band, Black Country Communion.

Joe Bonamassa’s stunning playing will always overshadow his voice, but it is worth drawing attention to the pained and truly heartfelt vocal on ‘The Last Matador of Bayonne’ and the rollicking voice of ‘You Better Watch Yourself’. Like SRV before him, Bonamassa sings with his soul – whether it comes out of his mouth or his fingertips it is deep and real.

Is Joe Bonamassa the successor to SRV that he is often held to be? The depth, soul and storytelling on Dust Bowl prove the comparisons irrelevant – he is his own man, and has been for quite a while.

Published  April 2011 on


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