Blues Of Desperation review by Joe Bonamassa

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  • Released: Mar 25, 2016
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 7.9 (18 votes)
Joe Bonamassa: Blues Of Desperation

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.

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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.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Sorry but i cant buy 'blues of desperation' written by a rich white guy who had vintage guitars since he was 14. Hes a good impersonator but thats it.
    I've been following Bonamassa since Ballad of John Henry, had the pleasure of seeing him life twice, and he's absolutely not an impersonator. He may be more privileged than any of the people that laid the foundation of this genre, he may have had a leg up since he was little, but his love of playing, his respect for the genre, and his emotional input into his music makes him far more than an impersonator. I've seen B.B. King three times. Buddy Guy opened for him the final time, and the first time the openers were Al Green and Little Richard. Bonamassa is just as genuine of a performer and bluesman as any of those men. Your comment is like saying Eminem is an imposter because he's a white rapper. And while I normally agree, yes, me and any other white person is a guest in the house of hip-hop, but as Charlemagne (the rapper) said, Eminem is not a guest in that house because of his genuine devotion to the art form, as well as his undeniable skill within it. The same can be said of Joe and blues.
    I understand that it is hard to listen to a piece of music if you dont like the guy behind it. But at the same time you need to be able to hear what the guy says and argue against that, instead of saying that everything he says is carbage because he is white and had vintage guitars at the age of 14. We all have had our musical influences and probably are at least a bit of impersonators ourselves.
    what a ridiculous comment, you dont have to be poor and have a tough life to write a good blues album. impersonator???? its called influence and blues is full of it. so is clapton also an impersonator?
    I've listened to many great Blues/Rock guitarists over the last 50 years. Joe Bonamassa is a new find for me. In my opinion he's a true artist and stands among the greatest in his genere