J&R Adventures- 2014

By Michael Rampa

Okay, by now you know who Joe Bonamassa is. The blues titan has gone from “the greatest guitar player no one has ever heard of” to the #1 guitar player in the world thanks to PBS and a worldwide social media firestorm.  The mainstream music press may have been slow to catch on (Rolling Stone did not mention him until they reviewed his 14th album, “Driving Towards The Daylight” last year)

His newest release, “Different Shades Of Blue” (Sept. 23) is his 15th album and first to feature all original material. The album has a Nashville twist as Bonamassa employed  James House (Diamond Rio, Dwight Yoakam and Martina McBride) and Jerry Flowers (Keith Urban). The diversity of the band lends a variety of textures throughout. The horns and strings give a jazzy feel to some numbers and Reese Wynans lays down Jerry Lee style rockabilly on “I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept the Blues.” Bonamassa’s signature sound is the heavy Les Paul, but the crispness of a Fender is present occasionally and is a welcome change of pace.

Nevertheless, the overall feel of the album is his signature blunt force blues. The hard driving opener ”Oh Beautiful” features frantic runs and echo. Old school effects abound, from the wah wah on “Heartache Follows Wherever I Go” to Anton Fig’s aggressive style and tom work that make the drums sound like the lead instrument on several tracks.

Most hardcore bluesmen take pride that their music is supported mainly by dedicated fans of the genre and guitar gearheads, but the title track is so catchy, it screams for cross format airplay.

To get a mention in a mainstream music mag early on, Bonamassa had to buy an ad in SPIN to promote his own tour. However, the title track from ”Driving Towards The Daylight”  was recently made a regular part of a Pennsylvania BOB FM station playlist. Looks like the secret’s out.