[Slowhand] bonamassa live cd review

Sam Mangano mangs88 at verizon.net
Thu Oct 23 15:06:41 EDT 2008

Within today's contemporary Blues scene there is an audience that loves a
solid guitar player. Some bemoan the act; some adore it. The latest two-disc
album by Joe Bonamassa is a showcase for the New York axeman. There are few
players today with the depth in their trick bag that Bonamassa brings to the
show. And while simply rolling out impressive lick after lick can make for a
tedious listening experience, Bonamassa balances the fine line between
serving the song and musical masturbation. Today, it seems the guitar gods
of our youth are now either dead or over 60 and matted with gray hair.
Clearly Bonamassa has the chops to vie for similar recognition and the
poo-poos certain to follow such a suggestion are based upon little more than
jealousy than listening experience.

n addition to being able to co-write a good song, Bonamassa has a
well-developed history of Rock's finest players and he pays tribute to them
throughout this latest effort. In the melody "Django/Just Got Paid,"
Bonamassa throws in licks from a myriad of artists, including Peter Frampton
and Jimmy Page. On the same disc the live version of his track "Asking
Around for You," a contemporary Blues Rock classic, is instantly
recognizable for its ethos of B.B. King, who took the teenage Bonamassa
under his wing. So one has to ask, why this Rock player is considered by
many to be a "Blues artist?" For no other reason than that is where his
audience can be found and if fans vote with their dollars - Bonamassa is an
unheralded upstart that is earning his respect one venue and one fan at a

Throughout this live album Bonamassa swings between serving the song and
taking off on fretboard adventures - a trip that may not appeal to all Blues
fans. Included are some earlier standards, including "Woke Up Dreaming" and
a too-short version of "If Heartaches Were Nickels." Also included is his
now trademark showstopper "A New Day Yesterday/Starship Trooper/Wurm"
(covers of songs by Jethro Tull and Yes).

In all, this is a radio-ready album for spotlight programs and fans that
derive from a classic Rock background and dabble in the Blues for sonic
familiarity and access to the new artists that, for whatever reason, today's
radio ignores. The track "India/ Mountain Time" is as strong a Blues-Rock
ballad as Rock radio could possibly hope to discover, but in order to
discover music one needs to be a leader (and a listener) rather than a
pollster. Perhaps the absence of Bonamassa rotations on the radio today is a
reflection of why pertinent Rock radio died in a Wisconsin helicopter crash
nearly two decades ago.

So why isn't this album given a higher rating than eight? Live from Nowhere
is an album seeped in blue intrepretation ala Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin and
Rory Gallagher, however, to the "Blues" establishment this is not a "Blues"
record...nonetheless it is an easy fit to most ears with soaring solos,
tasty keyboard interplay, and blistering rushes of bravado. What only time
will tell is if this album will cross over into "a dear friend" that is
played for its warmth as much as its songs and solos. "Feel the wind blow,
feel the time flow, and I'll be there when the morning comes."

Rick Galusha is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Rick at
blueswax at visnat.com.

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