“Guitar god Joe Bonamassa starts with the blues and builds from there”
If you want the job done right, do it yourself, or so goes the old adage.
Joe Bonamassa is a subscriber to such a philosophy. Which is why for his latest tour, which brings him back to East Tennessee next week, he’s both the headliner and the opening act.
It’s not that he couldn’t find an appropriate opening band to set the stage for his incendiary blues-rock shows that showcase his prowess on the six-string as much as they do his music; it’s that he wanted to give audiences two distinct sides of his musical personality, he told The Daily Times recently.
“We do a 45 minute acoustic set, then we take a 15 minute intermission and come back and do a 75 minute electric set,” he said. “A year and a half ago I did something like it, and it turned out to be one off the most successful, critically acclaimed things we’ve done, and we decided that this fall, since we generally do these specialty projects abroad, to give back a little bit and bring it to America. I think it’ll be really fun, and it’s something that hasn’t been done, at least in this genre.”
Bonamassa has been all about pushing musical boundaries since he first picked up a guitar — probably around the same time he could hold his head up as an infant. He grew up around music — literally; his parents owned and operated a guitar shop, so by the age of 7, Bonamassa was covering Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix songs note for note. He opened up for B.B. King when he was 12 and helped start the band Bloodline in the early 1990s.
He went solo in 2000 and by his second release, 2002’s “So It’s Like That,” he was topping the Billboard blues chart and would continue to do so with each successive release. His fusion of rock elements and traditional blues — a nod to his preference for the genre as filtered through British guitarists like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton — earned him ardent admirers from the outset, but it also won him a few detractors who look down their noses at what he does.
“When you do fairly well, you become a bit of a target,” he said. “I was on the airplane home from Warsaw a couple of days ago, and I was reading an article, and they spent half the article insinuating that my influences are only ankle deep. Well, I do a blues band, an acoustic band, a hard rock band, a solo band and a sort-of Herbie Hancock funk band. If that’s ankle deep, I don’t know what’s left!
“Maybe country and Western? The sounds of Hungarian polka? The thing is that I enjoy all of my projects, and I don’t think it confuses people. People who historically buy my records know the records are eclectic.”
Bonamassa is the sort of artist who tackles whatever project meets a few basic requirements — if it will be fun and will challenge him, he’s game. That’s why he’s constantly busy, as his schedule indicates: He’s about to release four DVDs of a series of gigs recorded in London last spring, is putting out a DVD of a performance by his funk outfit (Rock Candy Funk Party) recorded in New York, and he’s making preparations for songwriting sessions in Nashville that will herald the beginnings of a new solo album, which he’ll record next year.
He describes his work ethic as “musical ADD,” and for the fans thrilled by both his virtuosity and musicality, it never leaves them wanting for more. And where he’s at professionally — at the crossroads of a number of genres, displaying mastery of them all and an ability to wield an electric guitar that puts him among the best players on the planet.
“I think I’ve been able to take sub-genres of music that are pretty common and resurrect them,” Bonamassa said. “Nothing I do is original; it’s almost like a modern-day heritage act where versions of the songs we play come from songs before I was born. We do play for the old school fan; there’s no tricks, no Pro Tools tracks running during the gig. It’s a live gig in the truest sense of it being a live gig, and I think that’s where we get most of our ideas.
“When you’re using the blues as your home base of operations, it’s incredible how you can spread out and call on influences that to most purists have nothing to do with the blues at all but in my twisted view of it work just fine, like adding a Herbie Hancock vibe to a straight-up blues tune. It may sound different, but the intrinsic DNA is the same.”
By Steve Wildsmith at The Daily Times – http://www.thedailytimes.com/Weekend/story/Guitar-god-Joe-Bonamassa-starts-with-the-blues-and-builds-from-there-id-042511