Singer-songwriter Beth Hart is known for the passionate conviction of her soul-baring performances, on record and onstage. The strength of her vocals is matched by what she conveys in her lyrics, making her take on confessional songwriting authentic and heartfelt. On 2010’s My California-Hart’s most recent album prior to collaborating with Joe Bonamassa for the blues-soul covers collection Don’t Explain-she is as raw and emotionally immediate as ever, singing of life’s travails, lessons learned, and contentment gained.
She also adds a new tenderness to her powerful blues-rock sound that intimately draws listeners in. The British music website Rocktopia wrote, “each track impresses on both a spiritual and musical level, and the fact that everyone should be able to identify with elements of Beth’s narratives simply adds to the attraction.” It follows up 2007’s 37 Days, which was recorded, produced, and mixed like a live album (in only 37 days), with a 12-camera shoot capturing all the action for the DVD The Making of 37 Days.
A Los Angeles native, Hart began playing the piano at age 4, and has made music all her life. She attended L.A. High School for the performing arts, and released her first album, Immortal, in 1996.
Black Country Communion was an English-American hard rock band based in Los Angeles, California. Formed in 2009, the band was a supergroup composed of bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes, guitarist and vocalist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Originally formed by Hughes and Bonamassa with the help of producer Kevin Shirley, the group released its self-titled debut album in September 2010. Second album Black Country Communion 2 followed in June 2011, which was promoted on a European tour later in the year. The band released its third and final album Afterglow in October 2012.
Following an impromptu performance together in Los Angeles, Hughes and Bonamassa started the side project in November 2009, recruiting Bonham and Sherinian on the advice of Shirley to finalise the lineup of the band. The name Black Country Communion is derived from the term Black Country, which refers to the West Midlands area of England where Hughes and Bonham grew up. The group’s sound is intentionally reminiscent of popular classic rock groups of the 1970s, reflecting the previous work of frontman Hughes (in bands such as Deep Purple and Black Sabbath) as well as the link between Bonham and his father John’s band Led Zeppelin.
In March 2013, after months of public tensions, Bonamassa announced that he was no longer a member of Black Country Communion, with the question over whether the group would continue with another guitarist unclear. Days later, Hughes confirmed that the band was officially over, hinting that he would continue working with Bonham and Sherinian under a new collective name. Sherinian later joined Bonamassa’s touring band, while Hughes and Bonham formed California Breed with guitarist Andrew Watt.
RCFP grew out of Bergman and DeJesus’ 2007 instrumental album Grooove Vol. 1, and subsequent live dates at L.A.’s storied jazz spot The Baked Potato. They encouraged other musicians to jam with them, including Merritt and Neto, who joined the line-up early on. Bonamassa made his RCFP debut in early 2012 during one of his rare breaks from the road when Bergman—who has toured with the guitarist—invited him sit in on a pair of gigs.
“It is still one of my most fun musical experiences to date, world-class players all around,” says Bonamassa. “Playing with those guys was a liberating experience for me. It was great coming up with stuff on the spot, and reacting to the others. I loved the challenge. They were really happening gigs. I hadn’t had that much fun in a long time.”
That improvisational nature comes through on We Want Groove, which was recorded live over the course of ten straight days at Tal Bergman Studios in Los Angeles, California. The environment was egalitarian and ego-neutral, with each player sharing equally in creating the music. “The concept of this record had everything do with interplay,” says Bergman, “where everybody feeds off each other, reacts, and captures the moment.”
In title and spirit, the album tips its hat to Miles Davis’ classic 1982 live instrumental LP We Want Miles, which Merritt says “was kind of a template for our project.” Its influence is one of many echoing through RCFP’s re-imagination of jazz-funk—the album opener, “Octopus-e,” boasts a sinewy funk groove that suggests a meeting between Jeff Beck and the Average White Band. The gorgeously atmospheric “The Best Ten Minutes Of Your Life” has an early ’70s Temptations-style groove that just “lays there for late night.” The album closes with the lush and soulful melodies of “New York Song.” “All flavors went into making this album,” says Bergman, citing other influences including Herbie Hancock, James Brown, Weather Report, Earth, Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Sly Stone, and, of course, Miles Davis.
Bonamassa says, “Tal did a great job making sure the album didn’t become over indulgent. The challenge was to keep it fresh without our influences overwhelming the music—to keep the band vibe without it becoming too many ideas from too many people. It was important to commit to the moment and keep it fresh, and fun. There is a fine line.”
Ultimately, the defining influence on We Want Groove is the interplay, and the energy in the studio. Merritt says, “the idea was to set up in the room like we were playing live, and write the material together as we went along. Everyone had song ideas. Some were more developed than others. Whoever started something, whether it was a riff or a groove or some chord changes, we’d pass it around, make suggestions, and we’d be recording the whole time. We would listen, go back in and refine the ideas even more, then the next thing you know, we would have a take.” Says DeJesus, “We’d play a groove for a few hours—a little faster, a little slower, until we all felt, in the moment, ‘That’s right.’”
Powerhouse singer Mahalia Barnes, one of the most impressive female vocalists to come out of Australia, and her band The Soul Mates have teamed up with American blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa to release an album of Betty Davis covers called Ooh Yea! The Betty Davis Songbook. Scheduled for release on 2/24/15, it explores tracks from Davis sexy, raw funk records of the early 70s.
Betty Davis s unique story is still fairly unknown. She married Miles Davis in the late 60s, influencing him with psychedelic rock, and introducing him to Jimi Hendrix. Later, she released three genre-busting albums, 1973’s self-titled debut, 1974’s They Say I’m Different and 1975’s Nasty Gal that have since influenced artists like Outkast, Prince, Erykah Badu, Rick James, The Roots, Ice Cube, Talib Kweli and Ludacris.
Mahalia Barnes, eldest daughter of Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes and recent contestant on The Voice Australia, has been around music her whole life but has always been most heavily influenced by soul, blues and rock n roll.