September 17, 2018 Joe Bonamassa – Redemption (Album Review)
Blues connoisseur, Joe Bonamassa has had a very busy 2018, releasing two albums so far, drinking Black Coffee with Beth Hart on January 26th, and releasing his latest No. 1 live album, British Blues Explosion Live, on May 18th. After releasing one album in the dead of winter, and another to kick-off summer, Bonamassa is once again giving the gift that keeps on giving, with the release of his thirteenth solo LP of fresh material, Redemption, out Friday, September 21, 2018, on his record label J&R Adventures.
For this Grammy nominated rock-star of the Blues, the release of Redemption follows up Bonamassa’s last studio album of original music, 2016’s Blues of Desperation, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums Chart; a triumph Bonamassa has attained an astounding twenty times. Living the dream, Bonamassa is one of the most renowned Blues Rock guitarists in the world, primarily for taking the Blues to another level, one that is most colorful, and deeply enjoyable.
Entering the studio with his long-time, esteemed producer, Kevin “Caveman” Shirley (Joe Satriani, Iron Maiden), at the board, Bonamassa is not alone. No, he is backed by a highly talented group of well-respected musicians. For Redemption, Bonamassa is joined by core contributors – on drums Anton Fig; on bass, Michael Rhodes; and, on the keys, Reese Wynans. Introducing some new faces, Bonamassa welcomes – on horns, Lee Thornburg and Paulie Cerra; for vocal harmonies, Gary Pinto; and background vocalists Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae, and Juanita Tippins. Adding more density to the overall guitar sound, Shirley brought in two additional guitarists, Kenny Greenberg and Doug Lancio, giving Bonamassa more freedom to broaden the horizons of each track.
A smokey collection of unexpected rhythms, Bonamassa’s Redemption hosts twelve original tracks, seeing the Blues-man progress his songwriting into a very mainstream 1980s Blues/R&B/Soul world. Speaking in regard to Redemption, as only the beholder of this inspiration can truly describe his journey, Bonamassa stated: “I’m going through some other stuff in my life I didn’t expect to be going through. It’s a rising, it’s contrition, it’s acceptance, it’s everything. It’s painful, but knowing that there’s a rising coming.”
As we unwrap Redemption, let’s press play, and close our eyes to experience Bonamassa’s musical atonement. That said, the first track on Redemption, “Evil Mama,” immediately pays tribute to the opening drum melody of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” changing course into a slick Lenny Kravitz, Jazz/R&B style groove, lots of horns, and a talking guitar solo. A lively tune, “King Bee Shakedown” gives an almost Ska-like vibe, more horns, and a contagious dance feel. Getting serious, you can easily get swept up in the Blues via “Deep In The Blues Again,” as the lonely vibe heartily matches the song title. Dialing it down a few notches, Bonamassa is reflective on “Self-Inflicted Wounds,” granting direct guitar tones, warm keys, and a great hook leading into the solo.
Next, the late-night saxophone of “Pick-Up The Pieces” walks into the wild west showdown of “The Ghost of Macon Jones,” an early 20th Century actor, and the regretful “Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should.” One of the best songs on the album, “Redemption” harbors a Gospel rich environment of Roots and Blues, once again channeling the spirit of Led Zeppelin. Following some good ‘ole Blues on “I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters,” you can feel the pain inside “Stronger Now In Broken Places,” as the sober, acoustic ballad finds strength inside those battered and bruised, black and blue wounds. Perpetrating a more time-honored Blues style, “Love Is A Gamble” sees Bonamassa scaling up and down the fretboard surrounded by soulful organ and saxophone.
In conclusion, Redemption is not your typical Blues album, it is so much more. As Bonamassa’s latest gift to his fans, the cool, smooth tendencies of Redemption blend all things old school and modern Blues mixed up with the alluring traits of Jazz, Soul, and R&B. Three albums in, it will be fun to see if Bonamassa turns out more new music in 2018. As his fans already know, Joe Bonamassa is incapable of writing a bad song, and the proof is in his Redemption. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Redemption 5 out of 5 stars.