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The Ballad Of John Henry - Joe Bonamassa
Member Name: jeffjen
The Ballad Of John Henry - Joe Bonamassa
Date: 29/08/13, updated on 31/08/13 (93 review reads)
Advantages: Amazing guitar, great songs, vocals and band.
Joe Bonamassa is an artist whom I only began to listen to fairly recently, when a friend posted a song of his on a social networking site. That song was a cover of Sam Brown's hit 'Stop' and as I listened I was simply blown away by this man and his guitar.
I also listen to Planet Rock radio a few times a week and noticed Joe Bonamassa tracks being played on there from time to time too and became more and more interested after loving everything I heard. Then one evening I was was flicking through the channels on TV and noticed Joe Bonamassa live at the Albert Hall on Sky Arts. I recorded this and watched it through the next day and knew by then I had to start buying this man's music. He is such a phenomenal talent, I wondered why I had not noticed him sooner!
~~Who is Joe Bonamassa?~~
Joe was born in 1977 in New York. His parents owned a guitar shop and he grew up listening to guitar music and received his first guitar aged four. By the time Joe was seven, he was finessing Stevie Ray Vaughan licks and by the time he was ten, had caught the legendary B.B. King's ear. After first hearing him play, B.B. King said, "This kid's potential is unbelievable, he hasn't even begun to scratch the surface. He's one of a kind." By the age of twelve, Joe was opening shows for B.B. King and went on to tour with acts including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman.
Joe is also a big fan of and is heavily influenced also by Eric Clapton, who joined him onstage at the Royal Albert Hall, Gary Moore, Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher.
~~The Ballad of John Henry~~
2009 coincided with Joe Bonamassa's twentieth year as a professional musician (can't believe I hadn't heard of him in all that time!) which is an extraordinary timeline for a young artist just into his '30s. This album 'The Ballad Of John Henry' is what Joe describes as "The ninth installment of the ever changing story of which my life has became" and went straight to No1 on the Billboard blues chart and stayed there for six months.
This album marked a more confessional approach to song writing than Joe had previously employed. "Making the first half of the album," Joe says, "I was in the happiest place I'd ever been in my life. The second half found me in completely the opposite state. I've come to the conclusion that experience makes for better art. I had more to say, and it's the first time I've personally opened up the book on my life."
1. The Ballad Of John Henry
3. Last Kiss
4. Jockey Full Of Bourbon
5. Story Of A Quarryman
6. Lonesome Road Blues
7. Happier Times
8. Feelin' Good
9. Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter
10. The Great Flood
11. From The Valley
12. As The Crow Flies
Joe writes his own material and also covers a few classics in his work, but he wrote more for this album than he had previously.
The album opens with the title track 'The Ballad of John Henry' which has really grown on me after a couple of listens to become one of the stand out tracks on the album. A song about the ultimate working class hero, Joe proves what a great songwriting talent he has here. A chugging blues rock song which is the perfect opener, with a thundering bass over the solo section and a Zeppelin-esque section which reminds of Kashmir. I particularly like Joe's raspy quiet vocal towards the end as the song becomes quieter and Joe sings "Take this hammer carry it to the Captain, Tell him I'm goin' home.... take this hammer carry it to the Captain, Tell him why I'm gone ..." a complete contrast to the louder opening statement " Who killed John Henry? In the battle of sinners and saints." This song will give you goosebumps with Joe showing his talents lie in his vocal performance just as much as they do in his guitar playing.
Speaking of goosebumps, there is one song in particular which gives me goosebumps from start to finish on this album and not only is it my favourite track on the album, it is also my favourite Joe Bonamassa track overall to date. This song is 'Happier Times' which Joe states he wrote when he was " At my very bottom." Written about the person he thought was his great love, but it turned out she wasn't. Joe sings this with such emotion and his guitar seems to sing along with him in perfect unison, you simply feel every note just as he does.
I first heard this track when I watched Joe's Live at the Albert Hall performance and it was so stunning it brought a lump to my throat which is there each time I listen.
Included on the album is the track 'Stop' which first introduced me to Joe Bonamassa. I have always liked the original, but this is amped up a bit and the result is an amazing version of the Sam Brown classic which Joe described as very high to sing and believes you can hear his voice crack slightly on the last verse. There are a handful of cover versions which spring to mind that I have heard and thought are better than the original and I have to say I now include this amongst them.
Other covers here include a version of 'Feelin Good' which is as good as any other version I have heard, if not better and a cover of Tom Wait's 'Jockey Full Of Bourbon' which I absolutely love - a great blues song with a great chorus and includes one of the biggest guitar sounds Joe has put on a record.
Back to Joe's own work and 'Story Of A Quarryman' is another outstanding track which Joe advises to play very loud and I have to concur with that. Whilst 'Lonesome Road Blues' - a nod to Joe's youth follows, just make sure the volume remains at 'high' here. Listen with your headphones on and lose yourself.
Another of Joe's songs here ' The Great Flood' is the apology to his ex-girlfriend that he never said to her in words. It has a beautiful haunting baritone sax at the end and is another stand out on the album in my opinion. Joe himself describes it as possibly the best song he has ever written.
Praise must also be given to Joe's band here too. He has two drummers who performed on stage with him at the Albert Hall too and provides that bit of extra 'oomph' - Bogie Bowles and Anton Fig. On Bass is Carmine Rojas, Keyboards and backing vocals - Rick Melick, Rhythm Guitar - Blondie Chaplin, Brass & arrangements - Lee Thornburg and Sax - David Woodford. All are excellent musicians and provide a great backing to Joe, something which really hits home even more so when you watch him performing live. Indeed Joe Bonamassa travels the world playing an average of 200 shows a year, and his mind-blowing guitar and stage presence with his band is seeing him selling out progressively larger venues all the time. I have recently secured tickets to see him live next month in the UK and I cannot wait!
There are simply no weak tracks on The Ballad of John Henry in my opinion and it is an album I have been playing over and over again recently. If you are a fan of blues rock or Eric Clapton, Gary Moore etc then I urge you to give Joe Bonamassa a listen, you won't regret it!
Summary: I wish I had discovered him sooner!