Sound — 7
The title portrays a darkened blues rock effort, as does the album's grainy black and white cover artwork, however Joe Bonamassa continues to instead build upon the energetic, and largely bright sound which highlighted his well-received 2014 album "Different Shades of Blue." One could almost consider the newly released twelve record "Blues of Desperation" a companion album to its predecessor, as Bonamassa even strayed alongside the approach of bringing in some famed Nashville songwriters (James House, Jeffrey Steele, Gary Nicholson) to help add that much more grit onto the final product.
There are touches of soulful country melodies found occasionally throughout, however "Blues of Desperation" comes crashing right out of the gate more upbeat and formidable than the casual listener might anticipated with "This Train." The percussion heavy track pushes along the emotive vocals and distinctive technique of Bonamassa, on a song which recalls heavily on 1950s blues rock with a revived modern edge that Bonamassa is well known to catering. "Mountain Climbing" embodies a more grooving, raw attitude compared to it's predecessor, with a hint of southern twang in the vocal department, whereas "Drive" sets everything back to a jam-like bluesy that one might even expect from Frampton or Clapton in that regard. Whether it's the moderately Zeppelin-esque "No Good Place for the Lonely" and title track "Blues of Desperation," or the more reflective performance captured on "The Valley Runs Low," what Bonamassa captures throughout maintains the common thread of his blues rock origins while still managing to deliver a widely varietal compilation of stylistic achievements centered around embracive guitar work and complimentarily passionate lead vocals.
Other selections like "You Left Me Nothin' But the Bill and the Blues" fall along the same track that "This Train" set the record upon at a lightning pace, whereas the kick drum oriented "Distant Lonesome Train" and laidback "How Deep This River Runs" present a more authoritative and influential collaboration with Bonamassa's camp of outside songwriters in regard to their country rock feel. The closing numbers "Livin' Easy" and "What I've Known for a Very Long Time" are a stark contrast to the manner in which "Blues of Desperation" introduced itself to the world, in that the foot is let up off the gas in favor of a few winding, relaxed numbers. Hints of New Orleans jazz finds it's way to the surface on the former track, adding a little flair to the record while helping set the pace back enough so that when the opening chords to "This Train" come racing out of the speakers next time around, it's still the same refreshing listening experience as it was upon first popping in the latest Bonamassa disc.
Lyrics — 8
Granted, Bonamassa doesn't stray away from the common lyrical themes that the blues are well known for over the stretch of eleven tracks on "Blues of Desperation." The common ties of loneliness, saddened travels and train rides through the country are nothing groundbreaking here but it plays well to the slightly nostalgic spirit which Bonamassa conjures up with his twelfth solo album. It's when the album does venture towards those familiar valleys that Bonamassa's soulful vocal performances offer up enough individuality to draw longtime listeners to hear what terrains the bluesman has headed through lately.
Overall Impression — 7
Rather than deviate from the successful formula which decorated 2014's "Different Shades of Blue," Joe Bonamassa stays on course as far as both songwriting and execution with his twelfth solo album "Blues of Desperation." While the album does find itself occasionally running through familiar territory, "Blues of Desperation" thrives because of it's variety that encompasses elements of blues, rock, country and jazz, topped off by Bonamassa's approach to both the six strings and the lead microphone.