Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year. We get to sit down with family, have great food and wonderful conversation, and most importantly, we get to reflect on and discuss all the things that we are grateful for. And there’s so much: family, friends, the comforts of food and home, going to a job that supports us – and in my particular case a job that I love.
But another thing I’m really thankful for is music. Music gets me through the tough times and makes the joyous ones even better. I feel so much gratitude towards the musicians that have blessed my ears and my life. And, of course, right at the top of that list is Joe Bonamassa and his scintillating guitar playing.
This Thanksgiving, not only am I going to express my thanks for the music to my family, but I’m excited to do it on this blog as well. Joe Bonamassa – you’re the man. Thanks for all that you do. The fans – myself included – are so thankful for every drop of heart and sweat and soul you pour into every show, every album, every guitar lick.
And because I like lists, and hopefully you guys do too, here’s a list of the five Joe Bonamassa songs I am really, really thankful for this particular year.
- Joe Bonamassa – Sloe Gin: “Sloe Gin” is the title track from Joe Bonamassa’s 6th studio album, and it’s a monster. Don’t just take my word for this – it’s continuously considered one of the all-time fan favorite songs by Joe Bonamassa fans. The tune, originally performed by Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Frank-N-Furter himself, Tim Curry, floods over with deep and raw emotion, and Joe is able to retain that trait while making the song wholly his own. So many people can relate to the lyrics, which is partially why this song is “so damn” popular. It speaks to the loneliness that everyone has felt at one time or another. But it also has the explosive guitar solos to match – never overplaying, Joe lets the solo follow the feel of the song and whacks the mole right on top of the head with this one. Simply brilliant!
Originally performed by Tim Curry
Joe Bonamassa Album: Sloe Gin
- Joe Bonamassa – Killing Floor: Originally written by the legendary Howlin’ Wolf, this song is one of the iconic classics of the high-period of Chicago blues, a scene that was dominated by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Joe’s version of “Killing Floor” comes from his Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf tribute show, Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks, an exquisite show taped at the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. The song is infused with the sound and spirit of Joe, but it is still reverential of its source material. The solos are smokin’ like a 1950s Hollywood star, but on this tune even the solos might take a back seat to the incredible and instantly recognizable Hubert Sumlin’ guitar riff that Joe masters, to the delight of the crowd.
Originally performed by Howlin’ Wolf
Joe Bonamassa Album: Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks
- Rock Candy Funk Party – The Fabulous Tales of Two Bands: It seems to have always been the intention of Tal Bergman, Mike Merritt, and the rest of Rock Candy Funk Party to start to evolve away from the 1980’s style Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock funk-jazz that made their first album so successful. When I kept hearing that this was going to be more of a straight up “dance album” than a jazz album – which is a kind of sort of misleading thing to say really – I didn’t quite know what to expect and approached the new album with some trepidation. But Groove is King turned out to be a dynamite album and the groove is as heavy as ever. Yes, there’s a lot of music to dance to here – but that’s a good thing! But perhaps both the most surprising and rewarding track on the LP is “The Fabulous Tale of Two Bands”. The track samples an old EDM song by The Prodigy called “Firestarter” that I used to dance to on my bed when it came on MTV. Those were the days, but Rock Candy Funk Party has managed to take that music and make it even better here. Tip o’ the ol’ cap to you, Sirs, and thank you for this groovy song.
Samples originally performed by: The Prodigy
Rock Candy Funk Party album: Groove Is King
- Joe Bonamassa – Still Water: This celtic take on the Daniel Lanois classic “Still Water” is such a treat for me. This has long been one of my favorite Lanois tunes, and it’s always amazing to hear one of your heroes cover anther one of your heroes, especially when it’s done perfectly. This one is. It’s significantly different from the original – shedding away much of the song’s New Orleans roots and instead painting it with its Celtic tinge, but retains the striking melody and haunting overall acoustic guitar sound. It’s also a stellar minimalist performance form Joe – nothing other than his booming, shimmering vocals and simple acoustic guitar strumming. No solos needed here. Although if he plays one when I hear this one live, I’ll gladly take it!
Originally Performed by: Daniel Lanois
Joe Bonamassa Album: Live at Radio City Music Hall
5. Joe Bonamassa – Never Give All Your Heart: One of my favorite tunes from Different Shades of Blue is now a live gem, and here’s the recording to prove it. So much energy is unleashed from the very beginning when the mournful acoustic strings give way to a blast of heavyweight power chords. The transition is phenomenal and already builds up so much emotion. This is also one of my favorite lyrical pieces that Joe has written, with its scents of old coffee, sounds of the creaky stares, and the feel of a gun at his side. So evocative and poetic! One thing is sure: If Joe can write like this in Nashville again, we’re gonna have another heck of a studio album coming to us in the not so distant future. And that’s one more thing to be very, very thankful for.
Originally Performed by: Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa Album: Live at Radio City Music Hall
What are you most grateful for when it comes to Joe Bonamassa? Is it an album, or a concert you’ve attended? Or maybe it’s watching him solo on an incredibly poignant rendition of “Oh Beautiful!” Let me know in the comments!