Joe Bonamassa is a blues-rock virtuoso, and my hope is that his incredible success will lead to a growth period in the blues-rock genre. And it seems to me like, to a great extent, it’s happening. Blues-rockers, both new and old, famous and underground, are making a comeback in a big way and I find this all to be very exciting. So for my latest blogpost, I thought I’d mention some great tracks that I’ve heard recently in the blues and blues-rock genres that you might want to take a listen to. As my goal was to keep it current, these are all from relatively new releases. Some of the artists I know quite well, like Beth Hart and John Mayall, and others are almost completely new to me – but they’re all making great music.
1. Beth Hart – “Might As Well Smile” –Better Than Home
Beth Hart is one of the hottest things going in blues-rock music right now. She’s known to Joe Bonamassa fans due to her incredible duet albums with Joe, but Beth now has quite a huge following in her own right. She is blessed with an enchanting, impossible to resist ability to sing the blues, with her strong as steel pipes and her insistence on wearing her heart on her sleeve. “Might As Well Smile” is an uptempo, soul-drenched tune punctuated with punchy horns and optimistic, feel-good lyrics that hint at the overcoming of great pain and hardship.
2. Tinsley Ellis – “Midnight Ride” – Tough Love
Tinsley Ellis is the kind of blues musician who can handle tough love, with his tough-as-nails, gritty playing and his driving, propulsive rhythms. His jumping, densely orchestrated song “Midnight Ride” is top shelf blues-rock, with dueling style guitar solos and Ellis’ swaggering, cocky but weather worn vocals shining through the mix. A Florida native, Mr. Ellis is influenced by both the blues and the incredible southern rock of the late 60s and 70s that is so much a part of the fabric of that region. Above all, this one’s just a whole lot of fun.
3. Eliana Cargnelutti – “I’m A Woman” – Electric Woman
Eliana Cargnelutti is an Italian guitarist and vocalist, perhaps primed for a breakout on the American scene. Her academic background is actually in jazz guitar, but boy does she know how to sing the blues. The song “I’m A Woman” features a bad to the bone blues rock guitar riff, and her restrained but powerful songs made the song equally parts seductive and biting. Her guitar playing is not overly virtuosic, but it’s filled with emotion and melodic innovation. Hope to see her stateside soon!
4. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – “All Your Love” – Live in 1967
Without a doubt, I am a big John Mayall man, and this is one of my favorite songs from the blues-rock pioneer. Originally from the album with Eric Clapton, this live version features a star studded lineup of Peter Green on guitar, John McVie on bass, and Mick Fleetwood on drums. Green is a wonderful player, and I don’t really feel that I miss Clapton on this particular track, despite how stellar his own playing is on the studio recording. Despite this amazing lineup of the band, they were only together for three months, so it’s nice to have a previously unreleased performance by this particular group available now.
5. Gary Clark Jr. – “When My Train Pulls In” – Live
One of the bona-fide stars of the contemporary blues-rock scene, Gary Clark Jr. keeps himself ultra busy while releasing some great blues music. “When My Train Pulls In” is an emotionally effective, deeply textured tune with grungy guitars and infectious bass beat. His guitar playing here is rough around the edges, veering into the territory of hard rock, which makes a nice contrast with his honey-sweet vocal abilities. I expect Clark Jr. to continue to be a mainstay on the blues-rock circuit.
6. Gov’t Mule – “Whiter Shade of Pale” – Dub Side of the Mule (Deluxe Edition)
Gov’t Mule is one of my absolute favorite blues-rock / jambands playing in the scene today. Lead singer and guitarist Warren Haynes, who had played for many years with the Allman Brothers before their decision to split up, is an absolute beast on guitar and a helluva singer too. Dub Side of the Mule, the standard edition, is mostly a reggae-heavy live set with special guest Toots Hibbert. But the expanded edition includes a whole bunch of extra material, including this remarkable rendition of the Procol Harum classic, with Haynes’ solo singing and smooth guitar playing leading the way.
7. Ana Popovic – “Ana’s Shuffle” – Can You Stand The Heat
Ana Popovic has been a force for blues since her debut album Hush! was released in 2002 and it’s a good thing for us! She is fearless with her guitar and has some serious chops. If you’d like to hear them, throw on this track from her latest set of soul-drenched and hard rockin’ blues that’s perfect for any occasion. “Ana’s Shuffle” is an upbeat rocker of a jam that features some serious guitar soloing, demonstrating that the blues still ain’t just a boys club. With it’s foot-stomping, infectious rhythm and hip-shaking bass walking, I guarantee you’ll be playing this one over and over. Make sure you give the rest of the album a spin too!
8. Joe Bonamassa – “Oh Beautiful!” – Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks
It was hard not to pick one of the Muddy Waters Howlin wold tracks off this one, but at the end of the day I had to go with a Joe original, specifically one of my newest favorite Joe tracks, “Oh Beautiful!” The honey sweet guitar solo had the crowd of 9,00 proud all whipped up into a frenzy, but just as powerful here are Bonamassas earnest, romantic lyrics. The acapella singing is smooth, soulful, and heartfelt, perhaps the best call and response vocal / guitar line since “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin.
– Brian R.
J& R Adventures
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