Joe Bonamassa is running late, but full of charming apologies. Back in Los Angeles after his recent promotional duties with the Black Country Communion project, Joe is busy with rehearsals for his own band, as well as promoting his own new solo album, Dust Bowl. Anyone would be worn out by such a frantic activity, and Joe is no expception.
“I could make up a reason, like Eric Clapton stopped by my house or I just stepped out to buy a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, but the actual fact is.. I overslept!” advises Joe with an apologetic grin. “We are rehearsing a new live drummer at the moment, and rehearsals have just left me really drained. So last night I went to bed and I was thinking, OK, I have to get up at nine-thirty in the morning and I wake up and it’s Ten-thirty; and I think, OK I guess that didn’t happen! Then people are calling me, and wigging out, and here I am.. The thing is, I try to run a good operation here, and if I say I’m going to do something then I make sure that I do it – I’m on of the old school in that way.”
“I have a lot of equipment, and I always bring far more stuff with me to a session then I am going to need.” – Bonamassa
So, apologies made and naturally accepted, it’s time to open up the conversation with the blues genius whose reputation continues to expand thanks to his prodigious guitar playing and his frankly epic work rate. Joe is eager to discuss his working methods for recording and the essential relationship he enjoys with producer Kevin Shirley. A producer of considerable reputation, Joe talks with enthusiasm about his sonic partner.
“Kevin Shirley and I have a really good working relationship. He knows I have a lot of equipment, and I always bring far more stuff with me to a session then I am going to need. So on this one occasion, Kevin asked me about that ‘capo sound’ and I know what he means. He’s talking about the Gretsch with the Bigsby and the big reverb and tremolo and I told him that I had left me Gretsches at home, but I did have my old cherry-red 295 with the Bigsby, and my Barney Kessel Custom; I had those with me and a few other things. I also had a
Marshall Artist 30 amp as well.
“You would never normally think of going to a Marshall to get a ‘clean’ sound but some of these ‘80s Marshalls produce a wonderful clean sound. So I plugged the guitar straight into that, and through a Demeter Tremulator, and I dialed that reverb on the amp. The key to that is you have to us the front pickup and turn the treble up pretty high because you need it to sound bright and punchy. If you used the lead pickup it would be too strident. Put a Shure SM57 mic on it and that’s the tone, right there – it’s cowboy guitar. It’s about using combinations of Guitars and amps that you wouldn’t normally put together.