Sound — 10
Joe Bonamassa started playing guitar at the age of four. Being charmed by the seductive sound of Stratocaster as he confesses, at the age of 12 he was already collecting high references from blues legends, such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray. No wonder shortly after he began releasing albums full of passionate blues and rock-n-roll anthems. A new album by Bonamassa, titled in a very simple and romantic way You and Me is, as the artist himself calls it, heavy music played in a blues style. The production was confided to legendary producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Black Crowes). Working on the record both the artist and the producer used the inspiration from Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker.
With all his respect to the teachers, Bonamassa starts the CD with a cover of Charley Patton's High Water Everywhere. Being afraid to appear on the lower level than his idols, the musician is too careful presenting his own songwriting. The album is mostly songs, written by other musicians and covered by Bonamassa the way he sees them, and only 4 tracks are written or co-written by him.
The cover songs are impudently interpreted by Joe in his own personal style, not aiming to copy or even catch the atmosphere of the original. Now there are a lot of sliding guitars and groovy tunes in them. Among blues there's the only rock-n-roll track, paying the tribute to Chuck Berry -- full of joy I Don't Believe. You can't stop your foot tapping by it even during busy guitar and classic piano solos. Tamp Em Up Solid, borrowed from Ryland Cooder, is a peaceful country-ish ballad done by only two guitars and a voice full of sorrow. The song is only two and a half minutes and it's last chord is in the beginning of the next track -- Gypsy jazz Django. It's an instrumental track, kind of meditative and it paints beautiful pictures in your mind as you listen to it. Bonamassa managed to even make Led Zeppelin's Tea For One sound blues. This one features a guest vocalist -- Doug Henthorn that swings, scratches and nails the song.
Lyrics — 9
It can be one of the following 00 either Bonamassa was born with a voice just right for the blues or he soaked it in listening to the blues classics from the childhood. There's even that smoky feel in the vocals peculiar to old blues man (as they got their heights being far not young). Either way, his voice expresses the mood of the song very carefully. It fuses with the music so organic that not paying much attention to it, you often don't divide the instrumental parts and the vocals.
Overall Impression — 10
Being the youngest member of The Blues Foundation committee board, Joe Bonamassa has certainly achieved a lot for his age. One of the most important -- he has a distinctive style, which for many musicians take years to find. Each song is personal and beautiful in it's own way and each one shows the artist from a different side. Each evokes different memories in your head -- like heartfelt Asking Around For You, co-written by Bonamassa and Mike Himelstein. The track pictures the scenes of a beautiful lady in a long dress, sitting in a bar and a musician, playing and singing for her. In fact it was written as a tribute to the artist's friends, as obvious from the lyrics. All songs on You & Me have a huge sexual energy, as well as the depth Joe filled them with. The record has a live vibe and to multiply that atmosphere some tracks even have conversations on the background in the beginning.
For the professionals among us there's a list of guitars and amps, played by Mr. Bonamassa (among which is Gigliotti JB Telecaster) in the CD booklet. Though Bonamassa's records would never be too popular, they would easily become the favorite albums in the sophisticated listeners' CD collections. For those of you, dreaming to sell your souls for becoming guitar Gods, You & Me by Joe Bonamassa is a must.