Posts Tagged ‘joe bonamassa’

From out of Perth comes blues-rocker Matty T Wall, to whom I give a whole bunch of gold stars straight up.

In the petrifying forest of current blues, Wall cuts through with a unique voice. There is much on his new album Blue Skies just familiar enough to satisfy the blues purists, yet plenty different enough to satisfy me and the thousands of blues fans who yearn for a truly new voice in the genre.

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Gold stars first: One – in the sea of Strats and Les Pauls, Wall uses a beautiful white three-pickup Gibson SG which he rings any sound from he wants. It has a throatiness and a sweet chime that works so well with the blues. Two – everyone (including SRV) does Hendrix‘s ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’; on Blue Skies, Wall chooses to cover that tornado-tune’s cooler yet equally gorgeous sister, ‘Voodoo Chile’, his 12-minute version making me wonder why not more blues artists do.

Three – Blue Skies is a completely consistent album of stunning music; a gumbo of most modern styles, all worked up beautifully. Opener ‘Burnin Up Burnin Down’ is a heavy horn-driven Chicago stomper. ‘Am I Wrong’ is Slim Harpo on amphetamine. ‘Love Gone Away’ is the kind of minor-key blues Joe Bonamassa tears up – yet Wall’s soloing here uses much more texture and jazz flavours than mighty Joe.Matty-T-Wall - Album cover

‘Scorcher’ is a virtuoso guitar workout á la SRV’s ‘Rude Mood’, a thrill ride where Wall, like SRV, never seems to run out of energy, or ideas. Great guitar, great vocal too: ‘This Is Real’ is deep-fried slow-funk that has Wall in Robert Cray soul-blues mode.

Title track ‘Blue Skies’ has a country edge that brings to mind the same-named Allman Brothers tune. Wall adds some heavyweight guitar along the way, and a gospel edge. The effect is epic but never overblown.

Recorded in Perth and New York (Wall means business) with a crack band that plays like they mean it, Blue Skies should really be noticed by everyone who is listening out for the good stuff. We will see. I truly hope so.

Published May 2016 on theorangepress.net

 

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Heavy guitar rock comes in and out of fashion with almost meteorological regularity. Who is this week’s saviour of rock?

The truth is that heavy guitar rock never ever goes away and whenever things get too precious, it appears to be a rockin’ guitar band that pops up to give it a shot in the arm – or an analogue kick up the auto-tuned arse.

Rock and roll, metal, punk, grunge, pub rock – they are all manifestations of the primal urge of rock. The mutant hybrid of a guitar, an amp, a teenager – all pushed beyond what they were calibrated to do – has given us some of rock’s most feverishly thrilling moments. From Link Wray to The Who to The Stooges to Iron Maiden, it is Boy’s Own fun and fantastic stuff.

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Australia seems to do guitar rock exceptionally well – giving the world one of the most iconic guitar bands of all time in AC/DC, and producing enormously popular and influential bands such as Rose Tattoo and Midnight Oil. Because much of Australia’s toughest hard rock was born in pubs, clubs and skinned-knuckle venues, it has always had a feeling of being bullshit-free and unvarnished – more ‘real’ – much as Australians see themselves.

Adelaide three-piece, Tracer, seem set to follow that fine hard rock lineage that recently has wavered a little too into cartoon territory with bands such as Airbourne. Their new album, El Pistolero has garnered top marks from Kerrang!, Classic Rock Magazine and Total Guitar and it is no surprise.tracer 1

Produced by Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley – the go-to guy for anything truly rocking (Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa) today – El Pistolero hits all the marks, ticks all the boxes and kicks all the pricks. Shirley has drawn a great sound out of a band that already had a big, thumping rock and roll heart.

Tracer’s sound balances their precision with sludge, their momentum with thud and their howl with growl. The mix is one of the most exciting I have heard for a while.

No cartoons, no posing, no weekend warriors – Tracer are a hard-working band who sound great because, like all the real bands – old like the Stooges or new like Kyuss – they do nothing but work at what they love.

El Pistolero is out today, June 5, thru Mascot/Warner.

The band’s tour kicks off June 12; details are here – http://www.tracer-band.com/?page_id=6

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Prior to posting this review I asked Tracer’s Mike Brown a handful of questions. Here are his responses:

TheOrangePress: The title, graphics and 3 part ‘Del Desperado Suite’ give El Pistolero that eternally-cool spaghetti western vibe – what drew you to this theme?

Mike Brown: We’re movie nuts in the band and we’re especially drawn towards directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez for their quirky, oddball films that are just dripping in coolness. I think we take that approach to our music too, trying to make cool music with a bit of a weirdness in it. I was watching the Rodriguez movie Desperado and I started tinkering with a flamenco guitar to learn the song in the film and that led to me writing a couple of tunes that were inspired by the film. I mean, the guy is a guitar playing, vigilante super hero! That’s fuckin’ awesome! We started writing songs that had a Mexican/south-of-the-border vibe to them and I was writing lyrics that followed the storyline of Desperado just to see if it could be done. It was a bit of a challenge for us because there was a high possibility that it could end up corny or a bit cliché but I think the songs that are based around the film came out really cool. We already had a bit of a tex/mex, dry, desert sound but with this album we wanted to open it up a bit and push the barriers in the stoner rock genre that we’ve been classified in (not something of our doing by the way). So we tried to get a more expansive, cinematic vibe to the tracks, which I think really came out in songs like ‘There’s A Man’ and especially ‘Until The War Is Won’.

TOP: Tracer’s sound is obviously inspired by ’70s guitar bands such as Led Zeppelin but there is just as much Soundgarden sludge in the mix as well. How did to arrive at this mix – why not go entirely one way or the other?

MB: It happened very organically. We never decided to write songs that sound like a certain band or consciously copy a sound. I think it’s derived from our influences. We kind of pick what we like from them and it subconsciously goes into the melting pot for us to pick and chose from when we’re writing songs. At the end of the day, we write songs that we want to hear. And that’s mostly because nobody else is making the music that we want to hear in our heads. I love the sludgey Soundgarden and Kyuss stoner rock, and I love the free form of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple so we take elements from those guys and leave behind the stuff we don’t dig, mix it in with what we want to hear and Tracer is what comes out. I have no problem in wearing my influences on my sleeve and I always remember what David Bowie once said… ”I have never had an original idea in my life.” This from an artist who I would consider one of the most original that has ever lived!

TOP: ‘Caveman’ Kevin Shirley – you really couldn’t find a better producer for the Tracer sound. How did working with Kevin come about?

MB: Kevin had worked with a few artists on our label, namely Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart and Black Country Communion and our music got put forward to him by the head of our label. Apparently he got very interested in recording with us and we got an email about two weeks later saying “Kevin is in. Be in LA at the end of November to record an album.” We just thought “Holy fuck! We should write some songs!”

TOP: What was it like working with him? He appears to have pulled some great performances out of you – was there any blood spilled?

MB: Yeah he really did get the most out of us for the record. He has a great ability to read people and knows when to push people to their limits and when to mother them towards a good performance. There wasn’t any blood spilled but there was plenty of sweat and hard work. Dre and I went to LA to prove a point with our playing and we had been working really hard on getting our level of musicianship up and also concentrating on good performances, especially with the vocals. I think Kevin picked up on this and pushed us further in the studio. With Kevin taking the producer role, which was something we had previously done ourselves, it really freed us up to concentrate solely on the playing and I think it shows on the record.

As far as his methods, all I can say is he is extremely quick in making decisions and recording in general. He catches the vibe very fast and then moves on before the magic dies. We had 14 songs tracked with drums, bass, guitars and main vocals in 6 days! He has a great knack for capturing that live excitement that comes from musicians playing together and getting excited by the music together.

TOP: Why do you think there is pretty much always a market for heavy, guitar-based analogue rock?

MB: Because it’s real! It’s emotion provoking and I don’t think people get enough of that in their lives from external sources. I think guys in particular have anger that needs to come out and I think that vocalizing it through rock music is a really healthy way for people to do it. Also I think people still appreciate good musicianship and well-written songs. Dave Grohl has been banging on about this for the last couple of years and I think he is absolutely right. There is a magic, a vibe, an indescribable feeling of when musicians play instruments and it’s recorded as is, warts and all. The artifacts and little fuck ups became that favourite part of the record and you can hear the musician’s soul. You can’t do that with auto tuned, computer music. There is so much terrible crap on the airwaves today that people can’t hang their hat on because it’s there one day and then it’s completely forgotten the next. Artists aren’t creating music anymore they’re creating adverts for a brand and I believe that people are starting to see through it again as they did in the 80’s. Punk, grunge and metal were the saviours in the 90’s because of the plastic-ness of the 80’s music. And I think the same thing is happening now.

TOP: And finally, what are your thoughts on music, in general, today? Please feel free to use bad language.

MB: See rant above haha! To be honest I try not to get caught up on it. There is an underground swell throughout the world at the moment for rock music and it will only take a couple of bands to break through before we start seeing a resurgence in real music for real fans and not fake music for scenesters.

Thanx.

Published July 2013 on theorangepress.net

 

 

Anyone who caught the wizard of Katoomba, Claude Hay supporting US blues guitar hero Joe Bonamassa at his recent Sydney gig would have been as amazed as I was that Hay’s music held its own against Bonamassa’s road-toughened four-piece band – and there was only one of him.

For years the remarkable Hay has travelled the world with only himself and his collection of loop-boxes, jim-jams, boo-bams, junk instruments and kitchen-sink guitars (‘Stella’, who we heard at the Bonamassa gig was a baking tin in a former life). Hay’s independence – no, self-sufficiency – has extended to his music which has always been a highly personal take on the Blues – taking in country, zydeco, slide-blues and hard-rock – as chopped and channelled and welded together as his guitars.

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To check Claude Hay live and hear his huge rockin’ sound come out of so few people (one) is astonishing. There is always the danger that, on an album with no visual, the novelty will disappear and the music will disappoint.

Thankfully it never does. It didn’t on his first two LPs – 2007’s Kiss The Sky and 2010’s Deep Fried Satisfied – and it sure doesn’t on his latest, I Love Hate You. Hay’s talent, instrumental ability and country-strong songwriting always errs on the side of deep feeling and rootsy honesty.

For the first time Hay has used trusted outside musos on an album – notably, the rhythm section of Sydney blues-rockers Chase The Sun. Does this toughen the sound? Who knows – sounds pretty wild to me from opener, the title track ‘I Love Hate You’, a stomper that hangs out Hay’s shingle of heavy blues, more Hound Dog Taylor than B B King.

The stompin’ vibe continues through ‘Good Times’ and into the stringy funk of ‘Stone Face’ – Hay’s self-production on every track is as tough and as sparse as I needs to be, just perfect for each song (it helps to be a One-Man Band).

Power-ballad ‘Close’ seems a departure for Hay – his website suggests his songwriting is beginning to show the influence of his childhood love of 80s cock-rock – but I hear Jeff Buckley in ‘Close’: swooping, highly wrought vocal (Hay is a hell of a singer) and one of those Led Zep builds that made ‘Grace’ so irresistible.

Also from Hay’s site: “‘I Love Hate You’ is a concept album – dealing with the things Claude loves, hates and loves to hate. From loved ones, great gigs, motor vehicles and treacherous trans-continental bus rides, bad customer service and indifferent radio programmers.ClaudeHay_SingelCover_LoveHate_LoRes1

Further listens will reveal who or what these love and hate objects just might be – through acoustic porch-rocker ‘Narrow Mind’ and banjo-led roller coaster ‘Blues Train’, all the way through to moody back-street crawler ‘Hound’ and closer, the Chilli Peppered junk-funk of ‘Turn It Up’.

Claude Hay lives in a dome house he built himself, plays instruments he built himself and tours the world on the wings (or wheels) of a career in music he built himself – he doesn’t seem to need for much. But we need the Claude Hays of this world now more than ever. As Big Music cuts out its digitised cookies in ever-increasing numbers and turning the AutoTune off is the definition of spontaneity, we really do need music like this.

 

Published December 2012 on theorangepress.net

Like both the Blues and modern Jazz before it, the genre of Blues-Rock found its perfect expression in the early 1970’s. Heavied up by British rockers such as Cream’s Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and the hyperkinetic Jeff Beck, the highly innovative music of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon paved the way for Heavy Metal and all forms of Hard Rock (including, whether they like it or not, Punk Rock).

And, like both the Blues and modern Jazz, Blues-Rock has its evangelists – those artists who, through single-mindedness or outright religious zeal, feel it is their mission to bring the Righteous Word to their hungry flock. US guitar classicist, Joe Bonamassa travels the world, missionary-like, wielding his Les Paul like a fiery cross, his blazing sermons lighting up congregations at all points of the compass.

 

 

 

On October 5, Bonamassa’s church was Sydney’s State Theatre, as gaudily rococo a house of worship as there ever has been. After a wonderful and too-short warm-up by the Wizard of Katoomba, Claude Hay (his one-man band trip would be mere sleight-of-hand if not for his warm and entirely-engaging musicality), Bonamassa sat down with a stool and an acoustic guitar and we were his.

Joined by drummer Tal Bergman on conga set, he took us through covers of Bad Company’s ‘Seagull’ and originals such as the title track to his last album ‘Driving Towards The Daylight’. The acoustic set concluded with some jaw-dropping bluegrass flash which would have shook every guitar player in the audience (and there were many – later in the set Joe B asked us to identify ourselves and a forest of callus-fingered hands shot into the air).

But as sweet and earthy as the acoustic set was, we had come for the Power and the Glory, and when Bonamassa plugged his (signature, no less) Les Paul into an unholy trinity of 100w Marshall amps it was Heaven, of a sort.

Playing through the menacing Zep-blues of ‘Slow Train’ and the funk-noir of the title track to 2011’s excellent ‘Dust Bowl’, Bonamassa delivered the sermon we had heard so many times before, and would rush to hear again for many years to come.

Bonamassa covered all the bases – the gorgeous Gary Moore cover, ‘Midnight Blues’, which showed the subtle, multi-coloured blues voice behind the heavy rocker, and brought to mind the spiritual genius Peter Green, an influence on Gary Moore and Carlos Santana; the worldly Jeff Beck group blues ‘Blues Deluxe’ which featured his vocal, completely underrated and over-shadowed by his guitar-playing, but, like SRV, an integral part of his appeal; the delicious ‘Sloe Gin’, Tim Curry’s boozer-poem and a JB live staple since his 2007 album of the same name.

Bonamassa’s take on Mose Allison’s wry ‘Young Man Blues’ (via The Who) took his road-toughened band into guitar jam territory – with bass player Carmine Rojas trading some toe-to-toe riffage with JB. Electrifying shit, whichever way you slice it.

But it was not all tooth-and-claw blues and spitting Les Paul magma; Bonamassa can be a truly beautiful player, easily putting aside the histrionics and flash for sweet and soulful lines, making his instrument truly ‘sing’ with all the nuance and warmth that that suggests. The long, mountain-misty intro to ‘Mountain Time’, accompanied only by the keyboard strings of Sydney’s own (and JB touring stalwart) Rick Mellick brought to mind Jeff Beck’s more cosmic flights and took us all higher in every sense.

What, of course makes Joe Bonamassa so exciting is that he is part of the long line of electric guitar players – Hendrix, Van Halen, Ritchie Blackmore – who revel in making a great big guitar noise. The encore of ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid’ mixed in all sorts of big fun rock guitar, from its ‘Ain’t Superstitious’ (Jeff Beck) intro to snatches of Billy Cobham’s ‘Stratus’ (a tip of the hat to Tommy Bolin) and huge chunks of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed and Confused’.

To those who wanted a rock guitar masterclass, they got it; to those who wanted unadulterated rock par excellence, they got it; for those (such as your correspondent) who wanted a window into an era when the guitar ruled the known world, they got it. Joe Bonasmassa cannot be beaten, whichever rules he plays under.

 

Photo by John Snelson/Get Shot Magazine

 

Published October 2012 on liveguide.com.au

 

 

It happened so quickly. We were sitting in the Enmore, soaking up the fine old world atmosphere of this great Sydney venue, when the polite PA music suddenly became a pair of cranked DIO tracks, the lights went down and there was Joe Bonamassa, riffing on his Les Paul as if risen from the stage. No announcement, no fanfare, no rah rah. Straight into it.

And he didn’t let up for half a dozen more numbers. Bonamassa doesn’t talk much, One piece goes right into the next. Wham bam. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a flow to it – the hard riffing opener, ‘Cradle Rock’, fed neatly into the next, ‘So Many Roads’, a cool and slow minor key blues. His crack band – a seasoned and hardened rock four piece – was onto it every step of the way, rising and falling with the guitarist through a widescreen display of dynamics. It was a treat to hear live treatments of ‘Slow Train’ as well as the title track from his latest album, Dust Bowl.

When he finally did speak to us – we, the by now enraptured audience – he was surprisingly charming, even funny. The superhero that Bonamassa has evolved into – wrapped shades, slick hair, suits and guitar hero thrown shapes – can be daunting and sometimes a little at odds with the blood, sweat and tears of his playing. But he told a story of a journalist calling him with the news that riff on his song ‘Ballad of John Henry’ had been voted  number 10 in some list of the ten best riffs of the century – it was funny and showed wit behind the shades.

He didn’t speak again until he introduced Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss, inviting him up for a jam. They worked through Eric Clapton’s ‘Further on Up the Road’ and The Jeff Beck Group’s ‘Blues Deluxe’ – the latter enlivened by Sydney born (!) keyboardist Rick Mellick’s perfect Nicky Hopkins blues piano stylings. Moss, a great player, seemed to have his sound engulfed by Bonamassa’s voracious tone at times, but there were flashes of real fire.

After a short display of solo acoustic guitar wizardry – during which you could almost hear jaws dropping all around – the band returned to ride with Bonamassa through The Who’s take on the Mose Allison song ‘Young Man Blues’. They took this Live at Leeds warhorse to some wild places, the rhythm section of Carmine Rojas and drummer Tal Bergman matching the original Keith Moon/John Entwhistle joyride in every way.

Despite all of his music’s references to 1970s British blues-rock, Joe Bonamassa’s playing is a thoroughly contemporary take on the blues. There are lines in his solos that could only exist in the canon of rock guitar post-Eddie Van Halen and only after the shredding innovations of NWOBHM. To hear Bonamassa complete a metal-style shred line with a single glowing howled note a la Free’s Paul Kossoff is to be wrenched back and forth through 30 years of rock guitar – albeit in the most delicious and thrilling way.

By the time he finished with ZZ Top’s ‘Just Got Paid’ – interspersed liberally with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ – the superhero’s shades were dripping, his hair was mussed and his pale gray jacket was soaked in sweat. But he seemed twice as tall and definitely larger than life. Joe Bonamassa had conquered us all.

Published May 2011 on http://www.liveguide.com.au/