Voted by Guitar Player readers as 2007's Best Blues Guitarist, blues-rock guitar virtuoso, vocalist, and songwriter JOE BONAMASSA is set to release his seventh solo album, SLOE GIN, on August 21, 2007. Bonamassa's fourth release, the disc re-teams him with producer Kevin Shirley (Joe Satriani, Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Led Leppelin), who produced 2006's YOU & ME, which debuted at #1 on Billboard's Blues Chart in June of last year.
SLOE GIN effortlessly ranges through heavy blues and acoustic numbers alike, a textured flow that Bonamassa says was in part inspired by Rod Stewart's legendary 1969 debut solo LP. In the liner notes, Joe adds, "I sequenced the album as a throwback to the side A/side B set-up of vinyl records...listening to an album as a whole is a lost pastime. i wanted to bring that experience back around.
Renowned for this fluid phrasing and post-modern fusion of traditional roots blues with rock and roll guts, Bonamassa began playing guitar at age four, and toured with blues icon B.B. King when he was twelve. Recently, Joe was named Best Blues Guitarist in Guitar Magazine's 2007 Reader's Choice Awards. He is also the youngest member of the Memphis, TN-based Blues Foundation's Board of Directors, and a spokesperson for their respected Blues in the Schools Program.
In the liner notes of Sloe Gin, emerging guitar great Joe Bonamassa explains that one of his objectives is to experiment with acoustic elements he first encountered while listening to Rod Stewart's earliest work. "I think the heavy blues and acoustic mix well together," he writes, and the inviting variety of the disc's 11 tracks--from the rousing electric rave-up of the title track to the closing, tabla-propelled acoustic instrumental--persuasively underscores his point. Bonamassa is a major talent with a growing following, and as his fan base inevitably expands it may become difficult for him to keep everyone happy. Hardcore blues devotees no doubt will yearn for Bonamassa to stay perpetually plugged in, but in the long term that would be a disservice to his broad range of skills. Bonamassa rocks formidably and convincingly on "Dirt in My Pocket" (a bristling original composition), the title track (well suited for air guitar), and his Claptonesque rendering of John Mayall's "Another Kind of Love." Yet his softer works suggest that he sounds a little more comfortable and natural--vocally, at least--on the acoustic tracks. His retooled version of "Around the Bend" (his first take on this original composition is found on an earlier release) is an engaging, pastoral gem, and his paean to his upstate New York home ("Richmond") is perhaps this disc's most memorable selection. Bonamassa knows the blues (at the time of this release, he was the youngest member on the board of the Blues Foundation), but he also knows how to rock and how to sagaciously, artfully ease off the gas. --Terry Wood