Blues Deluxe Vol. 2

Joe Bonamassa

J&R Adventures, 2023

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


In 2003, blues guitarist extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa released his third album Blues Deluxe, his first all-blues outing, consisting mainly of covers and paying homage to his heroes. Twenty years later, he has released the sequel… and like many sequels, it wasn’t really necessary.

Make no mistake, this is a fine album. Joe is too good to release anything less than entertaining and well-played, with soul and grit in equal measure. This time out, he relies less on guitar fire and more on horns and a lived-in feel. That’s what middle age does to you, I suppose, and Joe has lived this music for his entire professional life. It’s a solid piece of work, 10 songs (eight covers) and two originals, showing how far he has come since those early aughts.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A similar feel permeates the highlights here: the blues-funk workout of single “Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again),” which relies as much on guitar as on horns and keyboards. The lazy playing and funny lyrics of “Win-O” are a highlight, as is a hyperactive take on the old Fleetwood Mac number “Lazy Poker Blues” and the closer “Is It Safe To Go Home,” one of the more blues-centric lyrics on the disc and, not coincidentally, the best guitar solo. Producer and longtime collaborator Josh Smith wrote the latter song, and it’s as good a closer as Joe has had in a long while.

The nagging feeling, though, is that Joe has been here, done this, many times over. He can cover the greats while modernizing their sound, which has been proven, so there really isn’t a need to release a covers album at this stage in his career except to stall for time to write more original songs (the sequel to Time Clocks, his last original album, in 2021) and/or have some more stuff to tour with. To combat this, Joe and his team lean away from the Chicago blues and more toward Memphis, ensuring the horns are a key component of the sound, which is as big a departure here as anything, I suppose.

That may sound negative, so maybe I’m not conveying this properly. Blues Deluxe is a fine blues-rock album and you will enjoy yourself—but you won’t leave transformed or transported the way you do with John Henry or Blues Of Desperation. And you probably won’t remember these songs a few days later, whereas “Mountain Climbing” from that latter album still plays rent-free in my brain at random occasions. As far as modern blues albums go, this is a good solid one.

Rating: B

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