Different Shades Of Blue

Joe Bonamassa

J&R Adventures, 2014


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


After releasing an album a year between 2009 and 2012, Joe Bonamassa took 2013 off from studio records and focused on live shows, releasing four (two with Beth Hart) between Driving Towards The Daylight and this record. That time evidently gave Joe a chance to work up his own material with the help of a couple of Nashville songwriting pros, with the result being an album full of original songs (save a brief Hendrix instrumental) called Different Shades Of Blue.

Right out of the gate, Bonamassa takes no prisoners and makes no apologies. If you don’t like loud blues rock with a long virtuosic guitar solo, then get out now, because “Oh Beautiful” is five and a half minutes of just that. Equally as good is the horn-flecked, staccato country/R&B/rocker “Love Ain’t A Love Song” and the anguished “Heartache Follows Wherever I Go,” which is nowhere near as maudlin as its title, but features some guitar playing and horn punctuation so heartfelt that it almost makes you want heartbreak to follow you too, at least for a little while.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Never Give All Your Heart” is a classic rocker with a killer solo (one of the best of Joe’s career, actually) and a smoky haze that envelopes the listener, pulling you down with the descending chords in the verses and the explosive chorus. Elsewhere, the slow crawl of “So, What Would I Do?” brings out a gospel feeling that would make B.B. King and Ray Charles proud, with the guitars setting the mood just as much as Reese Wynan’s piano and organ fills.

As with most Bonamassa albums, and due to the sheer volume of the man’s output, there are a handful of generic songs that ably fill in the spaces between the highlights but don’t rise to the level of the rest; here, those are “Living On The Moon,” the acoustic-leaning title cut, “Get Back My Tomorrow,” and “I Gave Up Everything For You ‘Cept The Blues.” And “Trouble Town” is commendable for trying something a little different, but its awkward phrasing makes it a tough listen, as it never seems to find a good groove.

Still, for a guy who had relied on padding his albums with covers up to this point, Different Shades Of Blue shows a co-songwriter with plenty to say in his own right, a fact he would prove two years later on the masterwork Blues Of Desperation, where he also wrote or co-wrote every song. There’s still a little too much filler toward the second half of the record, but the best moments here stand alongside any of Joe’s other albums and make this one recommended for fans and those exploring the back catalog, particularly those with an affinity for modern blues and classicist (but not retro) rock.

Rating: B

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