Had To Cry Today

Joe Bonamassa

J&R Adventures, 2004


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Early on, Joe Bonamassa earned comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Jonny Lang with his modern electric blues and impressive guitar work. That’s pretty much the curse of playing modern electric blues; it’s hard to strike out an original language against the current progenitors, much less the ‘60s British artists or the original writers of the songs. But through the years, Joe has earned his own name by expanding his songwriting palette while staying dedicated to blues-rock history through his covers and his huge collection of guitars. At this time, there’s really no one like him in modern music in sound and few in spirit.

Had To Cry Today sows the first seeds of what would make those later albums great, and while it’s still easier to compare Joe to others than see him as a singular talent, the album shows his variety and songwriting abilities while being a fine rock album in its own right. Honestly, it’s hard to argue with the first half of the album, which is probably among the best opening batch of songs of any of Joe’s discs, careening from the energetic B.B. King opener “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” to the rollicking “Travellin’ South” to the hopeful “Around The Bend” without a care. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Special note goes to “Reconsider Baby,” which takes the lyrics from a Lowell Fulson song and sets them to a blatant rewrite of Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You.” What starts out distracting (at least to Zep fans) ends up transcending through the power of Joe’s guitar solo and the lived-in feel of the words; it’s hard not to want to listen again and again. Less successful is the blatant Zep rewrite of “The River,” which attempts to copy a faster version of “When The Levee Breaks” (complete with harmonica) set to different but still water-based lyrics. Bonamassa would continue his Zeppelin streak on later albums but begin to synthesize it into his own original language; here, it’s evident what he’s trying to do, but it’s still pretty cool.

“Revenge Of The 10 Gallon Hat” is a winking country/bluegrass instrumental; a coworker of mine who heard it while passing by whooped “Yeehaw!,” if that’s any indication, but it’s fun no matter how you slice it. The acoustic stomp “When The Sun Goes Down” is a late-album highlight that then leads into the all-acoustic, slightly Spanish and entirely awesome “Faux Martini,” proving that Bonamassa’s fretboard skills extend far beyond amped-up riffs and blistering solos. But Had To Cry Today has plenty of those too.

In fact, this one remains of the artist’s consistently great albums, an early career highlight and the template by which the best Bonamassa albums would follow down the road (most notably The Ballad Of John Henry, Dust Bowl, and Blues Of Desperation). And what the album lacks in truly killer songs or original blues-rock language it makes up for with stylistic range, ambition, and a broad smile. Well worth seeking out.

Rating: B+

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