Joe Bonamassa (born May 8, 1977) is an American blues rock guitarist and singer.
He began his career playing guitar in the band Bloodline, which also featured the offspring of Miles Davis, Robby Krieger of The Doors, and Berry Oakley of The Allman Brothers Band. He released his first solo album A New Day Yesterday in 2000, and has since released ten more solo studio albums, five live albums and four live DVDs, along with three albums with the band Black Country Communion, one with funk super-group Rock Candy Funk Party and one album in collaboration with vocalist Beth Hart. He tours the world regularly, and has developed a large following in the U.S. and U.K. specifically. His most recent album, Driving Towards The Daylight, reached #2 on the U.K. Top 40 Albums Chart, and he completed an arena tour there in 2012. In 2009 he was the recipient of the Classic Rock Magazine "Breakthrough Artist of the Year" award, and The Guardian said of him: "the 35-year-old from upstate New York has consolidated a reputation as the pre-eminent blues-rock guitarist of his generation".
Bonamassa has collaborated with numerous artists, including B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Beth Hart, Paul Rodgers, Leslie West, Jon Lord, Vince Gill, Sandi Thom and Glenn Hughes. He also played with Hughes in Black Country Communion, along with Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian.
Joe Bonamassa's music contains a mix of several different genres: although it is primarily blues rock, since relocating to Santorini, Greece in 2009 to record the album Black Rock (named after the studios in which it was created), his music has gained eastern influences, with the addition of instruments such as the bouzouki and clarinet (for instance, on "Black Lung Heartache" from Dust Bowl and "Athens to Athens" from Black Rock). He has also covered songs by John Hiatt and Leonard Cohen.
Bonamassa was born and raised in New Hartford, New York. His parents owned and ran a guitar shop. He is a fourth-generation musician; with a great-grandfather and grandfather who both played trumpet, and a father who plays guitar, Bonamassa credits his parents with fostering an appreciation of music in his life as early as he can remember. When he was a young child, he would listen to his parents' large record collection. He recalls at age 7, sitting with his parents on Saturdays and listening to Guitar Slim, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Eric Clapton, and Jethro Tull. Thus, he sees his music as an amalgam of all the various rock and blues he heard as a child.
He received his first guitar from his father at the age of 4, and by age 7 he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix tunes note for note. At the age of 11, during a short period of being mentored by Danny Gatton, he learned such styles as country and jazz as well as polka. During this time with Gatton, Bonamassa sat in with Gatton's band whenever they played in New York. He first opened for B. B. King at 12 years of age. At 14, he was invited to attend a Fender guitar event; during that trip to the West Coast he met Berry Oakley, Jr., with whom he founded the group Bloodline, along with Miles Davis' son Erin and Robby Krieger's son Waylon. They released one album which produced two chart singles — "Stone Cold Hearted", and "Dixie Peach." He has since played with Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker, Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Paul Jones, Steve Lukather, Ted Nugent, Warren Haynes, Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Eric Johnson, and Jack Bruce.
Unlike other successful blues-rock guitarists, Bonamassa cited his influences as being British and Irish blues acts, rather than American artists. Within the blues genre, hearing the traditional blues players, as with Guitar Slim, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and all the traditional American blues players, (with the exception of B.B. King), comparing the music in the United States to the "European" versions of the blues, Bonamassa found the English blues, fostered by the Jeff Beck Group, Eric Clapton and the Irish blues player Rory Gallagher, to be far more interesting to him than the original Delta blues players. In an interview in Guitarist magazine (issue 265), he cited the three albums that had the biggest influence on his playing: John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (the Beano album), Rory Gallagher's Irish Tour and Goodbye by Cream. He also stated that Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood was a big influence at a young age.
He elaborated further on his influences in his interview:
And in his October 2008 interview with Express & Star:
These influences are evident in his music, but Bonamassa has been influenced by other artists; notable examples include B.B. King, Eric Johnson, Robert Johnson, Danny Gatton, Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Guy. Bonamassa's style of playing incorporates rock, blues-rock, Delta blues, electric blues, jazz, country - and even prog rock as evidenced by Yes's "Heart of the Sunrise" and the "Würm" section of "Starship Trooper" being regular features of live performances.
Bonamassa's solo début, in 2000, was his Top 10 Blues disc A New Day Yesterday, named after the 1969 Jethro Tull classic that Bonamassa makes his own with what allmusic.com called “a jaw-dropping performance”. Produced by Tom Dowd, the album featured guest shots by Gregg Allman, Rick Derringer and Leslie West. "Miss You, Hate You" remains a cornerstone of Bonamassa's repertoire, as does "Cradle Rock". Bonamassa followed it up in 2002 with "So, It's Like That", which included "Pain And Sorrow". The album was his first to hit #1 on Billboard's Blues Chart.
In 2003 – designated "Year Of The Blues" by Congress – Bonamassa returned with Blues Deluxe. In the liner notes, Harris Cohen observed that Bonamassa, "never loses touch with the raw emotion that makes the blues what it is." Reviewing "Blues Deluxe", former Creem editor Jaan Uhelszki added, "New York guitar phenom walks tall in the blues tradition…jettisoning fiery riffs inspired by John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Elmore James, and Albert Collins into the future with furious playing, a hard-rock sensibility, and a grizzled voice that owes a debt to Gregg Allman. Equally inspired by the Delta blues and the mid-'60s British blues boom, the young firebrand … is able to fuse those two schools together, creating edgy blues rock." Had To Cry Today followed in 2004.
In 2006, Bonamassa released his fifth full-length studio album, You & Me. This album also reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Album Chart. For the recording of this album, he enlisted Jason Bonham, while "Your Funeral And My Trial", featured harmonica player L.D. Miller, and the bassist Carmine Rojas. The title of the album was taken from the Django Reinhardt song "Vous et Moi" (1942). The violin introduction of that song inspired Bonamassa to write "Django", the seventh track on the album. Longer live versions would later appear on Live From Nowhere in Particular in 2009, and at the Royal Albert Hall Concert (Live DVD). For this tour, Bonamassa engaged former Johnny Winter Bassist Mark Epstein and former Kenny Wayne Shepherd drummer Bogie Bowles.
Sloe Gin was released in August 2007, and spent several weeks at the top of the Billboard Blues Chart. Bonamassa's touring band underwent another change for this album's tour; bassist Carmine Rojas replaced Mark Epstein, and keyboardist Rick Melick was added. Both of the new band members took part in the recordings of You & Me and Sloe Gin, and toured on select dates during promotion of You & Me.
Bonamassa presented his first live show as a DJ on the UK radio station Planet Rock on November 9, 2008, playing tracks from B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Rory Gallagher and Eric Clapton.
In November 2008, Bonamassa announced he would be playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London on May 4, 2009. Tickets for the concert sold out in less than a week. Bonamassa described the event to the Express & Star as "the complete culmination of 20 years of work for me."
At the Royal Albert Hall concert, Bonamassa mentioned that the first song that he learned to play was "Further on Up the Road" and he then introduced Eric Clapton and together they performed the song. Later Bonamassa paid tribute to the Paul Jones Radio Hour on BBC Radio for playing his material on the air, then introduced Paul Jones who played the harmonica on a Sonny Boy Williamson II song, "Your Funeral, My Trial."
In March 2010, Bonamassa released his eighth full-length solo album Black Rock which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Charts and #38 on the Billboard 200. In May 2010, Ian Anderson guested at his concert at London's Hammersmith Apollo, and they played "A New Day Yesterday" along with "Locomotive Breath". At the end of 2010, Bowles announced his departure and Tal Bergman took over as touring drummer.
In March 2011, Bonamassa released his ninth full-length solo album, Dust Bowl, followed in September of the same year by a collaboration with Beth Hart called "Don't Explain".
In early 2012, Bonamassa completed the recording of his tenth studio album. The title was confirmed by Bonamassa in a post on his official Facebook page on March 12, 2012 as Driving Towards the Daylight. Bonamassa debuted the title track during his UK Tour in the same month.
Black Country Communion
In 2009 Bonamassa, bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes, drummer Jason Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian formed the supergroup Black Country Communion. They were forced to add the word 'Communion' to their name after another band called Black Country raised an objection. The band's first album, Black Country, was released in September 2010 to critical acclaim, charting in the U.K. Top 20 and the U.S. Top 60. The band continued working with Kevin Shirley for their second album, simply titled 2, which arrived in June 2011. In February 2012 the band released its first concert album, Live Over Europe. Their third album Afterglow will be released in 30 October 2012. Bonamassa is primarily the group's guitarist, but has also contributed lead vocals to some songs, such as "Song of Yesterday" and "The Battle for Hadrian's Wall".
In March 2013, Bonamassa released a statement saying that he was "Happily no longer involved" with Black Country Communion, followed a few days later by a statement from Glenn Hughes stating that the band was "over".
A New Day Yesterday Live was recorded in December 2001 and contains a near-complete performance of Bonamassa’s debut album. The concert was later released on CD and DVD in 2002.
Bonamassa’s performance on June 28, 2005 in Mechernich, Germany was originally recorded for the legendary German television show Rockpalast. The show was released internationally on DVD as Live at Rockpalast in 2006. An instructional DVD, Signature Sounds, Styles and Techniques, was also released in 2006.
In September 2009, Bonamassa’s sold-out performance at the Royal Albert Hall, featuring Paul Jones and Eric Clapton as a guest performers, was released on DVD and Blu-Ray as Live from the Royal Albert Hall.
At the 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival, Bonamassa and Pino Daniele performed a cover of Freddie King’s "Goin’ Down" with Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Their performance appears on the Crossroads 2010 DVD.
In 2011, Black Country Communion embarked on their first and only European tour. Live Over Europe was released on DVD in October that year, compiling footage from three shows in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin.
Bonamassa’s performances at the Beacon Theatre in New York City across two consecutive nights in 2011 were compiled together and released on DVD and Blu-Ray the following year as Beacon Theatre: Live from New York. Guest performers at the concerts were Beth Hart, John Hiatt and Paul Rodgers, who each sang two songs. “The Ballad of John Henry” and “Sloe Gin” were performed but not included on the DVD due to their prior appearances on Live Over Europe and Live from the Royal Albert Hall, respectively.
In Spring 2012, Bonamassa played his first-ever acoustic shows, backed up by Irish Banjo, Mandolin and Fiddle player Gerry O'Connor and Swedish Nyckelharpa player Mats Wester, as well as world-renowned percussionist Lenny Castro and long-time collaborator Arlan Schierbaum on Keyboards, Accordion and Harmonium. Their performance in Vienna was filmed and released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2013 as An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House.
A live DVD documenting Bonamassa’s 4 unique shows in London at the Borderline, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Hammersmith Apollo and Royal Albert Hall in March 2013 is currently in production.
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Image from Discogs