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Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa


On which Beth and Joe reconvene to mine the blues soul and R&B heritage of music and which they don’t do by halves.  In that at no point does either artist sound half-hearted or going through the motions. Hence like the first duo album, this set has a lot of high points.

With Bonamassa’s recent forays into acoustic music and funk-fusion ( see conversation items elsewhere on our site ) it seems he can turn his talents to just about any style…and yes, I have offered to play phased electric twelve-string when he gets around to making a psychedelic album !  Skilled enough to adapt to any era of music he just goes to his axe armoury and you can bet that he selects the appropriate epoch guitars to cut these tracks. And amps.

But this is what Hart needs to make these cuts as punchy as they have turned out. For example, the single ‘Seesaw’ finds Beth singing her heart out and then giving way to a torrent of a guitar solo. All over bustling horns and rattling snare.  If you like Aretha, Nikka Costa or ‘Outta Season’-era Ike and Tina Turner ( worth finding if you don’t know this voodo’d album ) you will find this hard to resist, best of all Hart seems to throw her voice into the song like her life depends upon delivery of the number. A real stormer.

Clever clogs Kevin Shirley produces this stuff with great aplomb, the right players and of course a complete understanding of what Joe can bring to the recordings. To me the mark of a great musician has to be the ability to make other players sound terrific. Not all guitarists can do this, the ego gets in the way. So let’s be thankful for those that can back colleagues well, eg Ronnie Wood, Steve Cropper, Norman Beaker, Phil Brown and other master players.

‘Close To My Fire’ is a good example of the two working well, a bouncy backdrop and steady bass with plenty of swoony stops , a vibrato-tinged vocal and lurking grainy horns, fluid guitar like a pike in the reeds ; if you thought ‘Nutbush City Limits’ belonged to the Turners and Bob Seger just listen to Hart rip it up here. Still sounds a crap place to live…..that slide guitar is a great touch.

Donny Hathaway song ‘I Love You  More..’ has seen a recent take by Ollie Brown but here aches with pain and lots of space and sparse bass. A bravura guitar workout sees the tune out.

‘Can’t Let Go’ IS the Lucinda Williams tune and here at a rockabilly pace with a Zydeco hint. Look out Imelda !

‘Miss Lady’ is a song that Beth found a challenge but gentle persuasion from Shirley saw it put down for inclusion, It’s a Buddy Miles number. Joe wah’s it up, sounds pretty good.

Etta James recorded ‘Rhymes’ of course and it gets a Southern Soul swing here, Beth sounds at her best on this one, the guitar part is a ringing lurch very similar to Jonny Lang’s current preferred musical territory. Staccato horns as Hart testifies, Bonamassa slings in a flowing dirty-toned solo.

Etta again on ‘Sunday Kind of Love’ which is a song much loved by Hart, for several reasons – so relaxed and so soulful, with Fifties cinema strings.

There’s a few songs I can’t stand to hear by is ‘It Hurts Me Too’ ( a dirge, even if Marcus Miller was playing it!) and another is Sondheim’s ‘Send In The Clowns’ (worst lyrics ever). I’m afraid ‘Strange Fruit’ is one of my Least Favoured. Here it is respectfully delivered, with Bonamassa taking the subdued Line 6 swells route.

So…a spirited set by people who love this music and an ace band. This is the sound of musical evangelism and this site can dig that

Pete Sargeant

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