Joe Bonamassa: An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House, to be released in March 2013, was recorded at the historic Vienna Opera House last July during a very special two-week long unplugged tour, played to a limited audience over seven exclusive European shows. Varying from his predominantly electric blues shows, this presentation was an all-acoustic concert performance, making it a unique and very special show fans had been waiting years to experience.
Produced by long-time collaborator Kevin Shirley, Joe is supported on his vintage acoustic instruments by an eclectic assortment of craftsmen from around the globe. They include: Gerry O’Connor, a music historian and traditional Irish fiddler from many generations of Irish music, on Irish fiddle, mandolin, and Irish banjo; Swedish multi-instrumentalist Mats Wester will play the Nyckelharpa, a Swedish keyed-fiddle; Los Angeles keyboard maestro Arlan Schierbaum, whose extensive recording career focuses on organic instruments, plays accordions, celeste, toy pianos, and more; and legendary Puerto Rican percussionist, Lenny Castro, whose works spans genres and reads like a who’s who of artists, including the Rolling Stones, Sir Elton John, Eric Clapton, Boz Scaggs, Toto, Stevie Wonder, David Sanborn, Avenged Sevenfold, Little Feat, Tom Petty, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many more.
Bonamassa has been steadily building his career with each year being better than the last. In 2012, he released three projects: the solo album Driving Towards The Daylight – his “lucky” 13th album – a balanced back-to-basics album that highlights Bonamassa’s signature style of roots blues with rock-and-roll guts and featuring Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford; and a live DVD and CD Joe Bonamassa: Beacon Theatre – Live Fom New York that captures the stunning two-night sold-out set at New York City’s legendary Beacon Theatre, featuring special guests Paul Rodgers, John Hiatt, and Beth Hart. Beacon, along with 2009’s hit DVD Joe Bonamassa: Live From The Royal Albert Hall featuring a duet with Eric Clapton, have both been prominently featured on PBS and Palladia nationwide.
He splits his time with a number of side projects including, most recently, the jazz-funk band Rock Candy Funk Party which is set to release its debut album We Want Groove on January 29, 2013. It features nine original, instrumental tracks that mash up funk, jazz, and rock with virtuoso musicianship. Bonamassa also plays guitar in the hard rock band Black Country Communion with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian. BCC released their debut self-titled album in September 2010; MOJO gave the album four stars and Goldmine called it “possibly the best hard rock album of 2010.” The following year, the band released their sophomore album 2 and their first live concert DVD/Blu-ray/CD Live Over Europe which was filmed over three nights in Germany. They were named “Best New Band of the Last 10 Years” by VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show and released their third studio album Afterglow in October 2012. He also recently collaborated with vocal powerhouse Beth Hart on an album of soul covers called Don’t Explain, released in fall of 2011. It features Hart’s scorching interpretations of ten songs from artists such as Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Ray Charles, Tom Waits and Etta James; with Bonamassa on guitar and his ace band filling out the tracks. The two are planning a second album of soul covers for release in 2013.
Bonamassa has received a number of honors and accolades; some recent ones include: Guitar International’s 2011 “Guitarist of the Year,” “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the 2009 Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards in England, No. 48 in Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, and Billboard’s No. 1 Blues Artist of 2010.
A child prodigy, Bonamassa was finessing Stevie Ray Vaughan licks when he was seven and by the time he was ten, had caught B.B. King’s ear. After first hearing him play, King said, “This kid’s potential is unbelievable. He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. He’s one of a kind.” By age 12, Bonamassa was opening shows for the blues icon and went on to tour with venerable acts including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman.
Bonamassa’s recording career began in the early ’90s with Bloodline, a hard-charging rock-blues group also featuring Robby Krieger’s son Waylon and Miles Davis’ son Erin. His 2000 solo debut, A New Day Yesterday, was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd; Bonamassa’s rendering of the title track, originally a Jethro Tull hit, was called, “a jaw-dropping performance” by AllMusic.com.
Dust Bowl, Bonamassa’s 2011 solo album, combines the gritty, blues-based tones of Bonamassa’s first albums with the fluid, genre-defying sounds he’s mastered in the years since and adds a dash of country from Joe’s collaborations with Nashville legends Vince Gill and John Hiatt. It quickly received an abundance of glowing critical acclaim and was featured on a number of 2011 “Best Of” lists.
2010’s Black Rock debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart and cracked the U.S. Top 40 – at that time a first in Bonamassa’s career – coming in at #38. The album added an enlivening dose of ‘world’ vibes to Bonamassa’s virtuoso mix of ‘60s-era British blues-rock (à la Beck and Clapton) and roots-influenced Delta sounds. The album was recorded at Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece. “With this album, we wanted to explore a ‘world’ feeling, and this was the inspiration behind going to record in Greece and using some of the best Greek musicians to add a little flavor to a couple of the tracks. But it’s by no means a ‘world’ album. We wanted Joe’s usual youthful and energetic tones to play alongside the worldly vibes of the Greek bouzouki and clarino,” said Shirley. Bonamassa adds, “It was the kind of record Kevin and I wanted to make. We needed to rock again a bit like on my first album. It’s youthful, like going back to your childhood.”
2009 coincided with Bonamassa’s twentieth year as a professional musician, an extraordinary timeline for a young artist just into his ’30s. His album The Ballad Of John Henry – with no shortage of its own jaw-dropping moments – debuted at #1 on the Billboard blues chart and stayed there for six months. The album marked a more confessional approach to song craft than he’d previously employed. “Making the first half of the album,” Bonamassa says, “I was in the happiest place I’d ever been in my life. The second half found me in completely the opposite state. I’ve come to the conclusion that experience makes for better art. I had more to say, and it’s the first time I’ve personally opened up the book on my life.”
In May 2009, he played to a sold out crowd at London’s Royal Albert Hall, arguably the most prestigious concert venue in the world. During the show, Bonamassa’s hero, Eric Clapton, joined him on stage for a joint-performance of Clapton’s hit “Further On Up The Road.” London’s The Independent said about the show, “The man has arrived, and there’s no turning back.” Shortly after, Bonamassa released a 2-DVD live set – Joe Bonamassa – Live From The Royal Albert Hall – which captures the night in full. Guitar Edge gave it five stars and said, “It is the wallop of his emotional expression, fueled by the rocking energy he derives from that trans-Atlantic connection and driven by his devastating technical ability that elevates him about his peers and makes him a certifiable blues guitar hero and the face of his blues generation.”
Bonamassa circles the globe playing an average of 200 shows a year, and his mind-blowing guitar wizardry and electrifying stage presence are selling out progressively larger venues all the time. Ben Wener from The Orange County Register said, “I haven’t seen anything so dazzling since Steve Ray Vaughan at the Wiltern in ’86.” The Columbus Dispatch hailed a recent show as “a night of wailing, energy-drenched solos that never ceased to impress” while the Reading Eagle called it a “tour de force performance steeped in blues.” The Grand Rapids Press said Joe is “in a league of his own as the best blues man of his era.”
Bonamassa is emerging as one of the most important of the next generation of guitar icons, driving sales for the guitar industry and keeping the guitar alive by helping great companies like Guitar Center, Gibson, Epiphone, Ernie Ball, Dunlop, Seymour Duncan, Clear Sonic and Klotz Cables, all of whom have signature products with the guitar phenom. Bonamassa’s style of guitar has breathed new life and excitement back into the instrument as legions of new fans are becoming familiar again with the great sound of guitar-based rock music.
“Joe is unquestionably among our greatest living guitarists, destined to be counted among the greatest of all-time.”
-The Orange County Register