Sound — 8
There's little to say about Joe Bonamassa that even the most casual blues rock listener doesn't already recognize; the guitarist is one of the most exceptional musicians of this century that specializes in the genre. His distinctive English blues-inspired playing, which takes the apparent influence of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck while introducing his own unique approach into the mix, has captured the attention of both longtime blues listeners and prominent musicians alike. His playing style even appealed to Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple fame, who went on to form the rock supergroup Black Country Communion with Bonamassa, but that's a story for another day.
Longtime Joe Bonamassa followers have never had to wait too long to hear new material from the guitar virtuoso, with a new studio album or live effort surfacing almost every year in recent memory, however attentive fans will recognize that the recently released "Different Shade of Blue" marks Bonamassa's first album of all-new material in two years. While the wait has been comforted by an array of not just one, but five full-length live albums earlier this year, "Different Shade of Blue" delivers a familiar compilation of soulful, hard hitting blues rock indigenous to the style previously incorporated on Bonamassa's earlier efforts.
An upbeat pace is introduced on the brief yet impactful instrumental "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)," before we transition into the grooving Jimi Hendrix-esque rhythms of "Oh Beautiful!," particularly when it comes to the "Hey Baby" inspired introduction. With the addition of Bonamassa's powerful lyrical delivery and the song's climatic percussion work, it becomes evident early on that this is an authentic studio album, through and through. Soaring brass sections and a swinging guitar riff propel the humorously titled "Love Ain't a Love Song," whereas "I Gave Up Everything for You, 'Cept the Blues" reintroduces impressionable piano playing atop a crunching chord progression and choice vocal melodies. There's no radical alteration in musical approach to found here; instead, we find a collection of songs decorated with skillful musicianship and personal lyrical themes native to a Joe Bonamassa effort. "Living on the Moon" reinforces that point, with energetic guitar work leading the way through our guitarist's story of a significant other who's a little too clingy for Bonamassa's own good.
Lyrics — 7
Joe Bonamassa isn't afraid to let his heart and soul out in the songs which comprise "Different Shade of Blue," which allows these blues compositions to really issue an impact. Devoid are any demonic growls or glass shattering operatics which usually determine a singer's either well preserved or overly abused vocal range in these sections; instead, we find a blues guitarist who serves overtime as a standout lead singer, and allows his soulful approach to stand proud while not taking the attention away from the actual guitar work.
Overall Impression — 8
Let's maintain the formalities: Joe Bonamassa offers a concrete blues rock anthology on his new studio album, "Different Shade of Blue." You won't find any dramatic studio magic on this effort, on what is largely a live-in-the-studio compilation of exceptional musicianship that any guitar addict will be able to appreciate.