Friday, April 5, 2024

Archive Review: Joe Bonamassa's So, It's Like That (2002)

Joe Bonamassa's So, It's Like That
The blues industry (what would Muddy think of that?) has been, well, singing the blues lately, and justifiably so. Seems that blues-oriented clubs and festivals are seeing audiences drift away, labels are experiencing reduced sales and many blues artists themselves are returning to their day jobs. It seems that in today’s go-go corporate music world, there’s just no room for the blues. Here’s a sage and humble prediction for y’all – all it’s going to take is one red-hot young guitarslinger with rock roots and a love for the blues to pull listeners away from their “new garage,” “nu metal” and “new pop” and back into the big muddy of the blues. This humble scribe nominates Joe Bonamassa, his So, It’s Like That every bit the tonic that the doctor prescribed.

Even at the tender age of 24, Bonamassa has spent better than half his life in the music biz, gaining valuable experience as a member of the short-lived band Bloodline and also playing with folks like Jethro Tull and B.B. King. Bonamassa’s storied pedigree has served him well, however, providing a confidence and maturity to So, It’s Like That, his second album, that contemporaries like Kenny Wayne Shepherd or Johnny Lang lack. His voice has developed into a warm, friendly ‘70s-styled rock ‘n’ roll yelp that is capable of both dizzying highs and mellow lows. Bonamassa’s songwriting has also grown since his solo debut two years ago, bringing fresh wordplay and perspective to the standard blues fare of love and betrayal.

Let’s be honest, tho’ – the reason that the casual listener will pick up on Joe Bonamassa is because of his six-string talents and So, It’s Like That offers a healthy dose of state-of-the-art guitar pyrotechnics. The fiery riffage that kicks off “Lie #1” is Hendrix-inspired and completely sanctified, Bonamassa adding multi-layered rhythmic flourishes beneath incendiary leads in this raging tale of betrayal. A hard rock beat opens “Takin’ The Hit” as Smokin’ Joe drops into a funky groove in this radio-ready rocker while “Under The Radar” uses overdubbed guitars to create a grand circular riff to smack you in the head. The title track kicks off with a Stevie Ray-influenced shuffle, Bonamassa trying on his best Texas drawl to drive the tale of woe home with some nimble fretwork and explosive rhythms.

A bright young talent that continues to amaze, the subtle phrasing, raw power and incredible tone that Joe Bonamassa brings to his playing reminds this humble scribe a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan, an obvious influence running throughout So, It’s Like That. Short-term memories may not recall that the blues were in similar doldrums back in the mid-‘80s as the country embraced “new wave” and “nerf metal” and MTV. Stevie Ray came along, channeling influences like Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and Lightnin’ Hopkins through his two hands to create a rock-friendly, blues-based sound that rekindled interest in classic blues and ignited a decade-plus cycle of blues fandom that is only now weakening. Joe Bonamassa has a similar vibe to his playing, mixing ‘70s hard rock and ‘80s guitar fury to create a sound that is at once both fresh and familiar and quite capable of blowing the dust from the blues, dragging the art form screaming and kicking into the new century. (Medallist Entertainment, released August 13th, 2002)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™

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