What does it sound like?:
For his second release of 2023 Joe returns with an album (mostly) of cover versions billed as the sequel to Volume I, which was released back in 2003. He also releases a remastered of Volume I at the same time.
Joe explains “On Blues Deluxe Vol. 2, I asked my great friend Josh Smith to produce a record to be a companion to the anniversary edition of the first album, and hopefully demonstrate a bit of how I have progressed over the last 20 years,” Bonamassa adds. “The contrast between a cocky 26-year-old and an established 46-year-old is considerable. Does the fire still burn like it did? Am I still playing hungry? Am I even good enough to pay tribute to my heroes all over again? The answer lies somewhere in this album.”
Both albums feature some fairly deep cuts as well as a few originals. Volume I covers some slightly more familiar ground – BB King’s “You Upset Me Baby”, Jeff Beck’s “Blues Deluxe”, T Bone Walker’s “Long Distance Blues”. This time round there’s Pee Wee Crayton’s “Win-O”, Bobby Parker’s “It’s Hard But It’s Fair” and Albert King’s “You Sure Drive A Hard Bargain”. The only track I recall hearing before is Fleetwood Mac’s “Lazy Poker Blues”.
Things have certainly changed in 20 years. For one thing, opener “Twenty-Four Hour Blues,” (a Bobby “Blue” Bland song) showcases a much more confident vocal performance, as does “Win-O”. Joe’s band has also changed, with what was essentially a 4 piece on Volume I expanding to include a full brass section, two further guitarists and backing singers on Volume II. And it’s this that makes the two albums quite different. Joe’s guitar work is still very much anchoring the ship, but it’s ultimately a smoother, safer endeavour, with no rough edges, few surprises and no risks taken.
It’s an enjoyable listen. “It’s Hard But It’s Fair” is funky, “I Want To Shout About It” is a feel good foot tapper which fades just as Joe seems to be getting into his six string stride. “Win-O” starts as stripped down bar room blues with another top quality JB vocal, but a guitar and piano start becomes another full band work out. The mold finally breaks on “Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again) – a JB composition – jabbing guitar overlaid on bubbling upbeat funk that’s stands out from everything that went before it. The following stomping boogie of “Lazy Poker Blues” is about as gritty as things get.
But what Volume II doesn’t have is the punch and edge of Volume I. Volume II is a Robert Cray gig, with table service and a full bar with all the usual cocktails. Volume I is George Thorogood before he added the sax player, nachos and Blue Ribbon beer, mostly in your hair and the constant possibility of a fist fight. Volume I is only two tracks in and there’s seven minutes of Joe’s razor sharp slide guitar fighting it out with Jon Paris’s harmonica on John Lee Hooker’s “Burning Hell before the whole band drop in and pin everyone to the wall. Then the full on six string thunder of “Blues Deluxe”, or just Joe and an acoustic guitar kicking up a storm on “Woke Up Dreaming”, or solo slide on “Mumbling Word”. There’s not a single harmonica or slide guitar riff on the whole of Volume II.
20 years ago Joe was a guitarist looking ready to break out, still 4 years away from launching his own label and the chart success that would finally only arrive with “Sloe Gin”. Does the fire still burn? Well, anyone who releases 2 albums a year can hardly be accused of slacking. Is he still hungry? Well, he’s clearly still peckish, but the bottomless buffet might be is a bit less appealing than it used to be.
Maybe on Volume III he’ll strip down to a power trio and get his elbows back out.
What does it all *mean*?
I’m certainly getting older, but I’d still like it louder.
Goes well with…
I’d pair it with a glass of Calvet Chablis.
Might suit people who like…
Chinos rather than denim