Blues great Joe Bonamassa is set to release his thirteenth full-length studio recording September 21 — a little more than two months at the time of this posting. Redemption, his third consecutive album of all-original album (which also comes a little more than two years after he released his second consecutive album of all original songs – there’s a little something for all of the numerologists out there) is another successful offering from Bonamassa. What’s really interesting here is that considering that meteorological fall starts September 23 – two days after Redemption is set to be released. Keeping that in mind, it makes Redemption the last great album of this summer and the first great album of the fall music season. Even more, it is a record that every one of Bonamassa’s fans will appreciate. That is proven right from the album’s outset in the up-tempo opener ‘Evil Mama.’ It will be discussed shortly. ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds,’ which comes a little later in the album’s run, is another of the works that proves why listeners of all ages will appreciate this album. It will be discussed a little later. ‘I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters,’ which comes even later in the album’s run, is yet more proof of why blues fans of all ages will appreciate this record. It will also be discussed later. Between this trio of songs and the rest of the album’s entries – all of which offer their own positives – the album in whole proves to be a record whose appreciation will also lead listeners to agree that it is among the absolute elite of this year’s blues field and – in this critic’s ears – overall albums.
Joe Bonamassa’s latest full-length studio recording Redemption is some of the best work to date from the veteran blues guitarist. It is a record that blues fans across the board will appreciate and agree is among the year’s top new blues and jazz records and even overall albums. This is proven right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘Evil Mama.’ The song instantly conjures thoughts of Led Zeppelin thanks to the very familiar drum line that opens the song. It’s a direct throwback to John Bonham’s drum line from Led Zeppelin’s timeless classic ‘Rock and Roll.’ What’s really interesting here is that the noted tribute is uber short, as the arrangement moves here from Zeppelin to a more pure blues style arrangement complete with horns, choral style backing vocals and subtle guitar and bass line. The juxtaposition of that Zeppelin tribute and the bluesy body of the song is, at first, a little uncomfortable because of the distinct contrast in styles, but with each listen, it’s an arrangement that grows on listeners. Keeping that in mind, it might have made a little more sense, in considering the album’s sequencing to have made the album’s title track its opener and switched that with ‘Evil Mama.’ Either way, it doesn’t make the song that bad. It just means the song might have done better with a different placement. Of course, the song’s musical arrangement is only one part of its whole. Its lyrical content plays into its whole, too.
In regards to the song’s lyrical theme, Bonamassa leaves little to the imagination as to the song’s topic right from its very title. He sings of that troubling woman in this song, “Oh, mama/Sneakin’ up on me in the black of night/Oh, mama/Turn my back just when you twist the knife/Oh, mama/I see trouble brewing in your eyes/Oh, mama/I won’t ever let you in my life/Oh, you wreck me/With your lies and your greed/No, that ain’t nothing/Nothing that I need/Why would you think/I would ever wanna/waste my time on you, Evil mama.” This is pretty cut and dry, and is only the song’s lead verse, too. The rest of the song continues in similar fashion, lyrically with Bonamassa singing about knowing “where you been” to that woman, and not wanting to play that proverbial, emotional shell game with her in the song’s second verse. This is a timeless blues topic, and when it is coupled in this fashion with the song’s catchy, mid-tempo musical arrangement, makes the song a positive addition to Redemption, proving in part why blues fans of all ages will appreciate this album. The deeply moving ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds’ proves just as much how much audiences have to appreciate in this record.
Joe Bonamassa said of his work on ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds,’ that it is his best work to date in regards to song writing. It is a work unlike almost anything that he has ever composed, and a risk that definitely paid off. The slow, almost brooding, waltz-time arrangement uses a less-is-more approach, from the guitar to bass to drums for a general effect that wastes no time tugging at listeners’ heart strings. The song’s lyrical content goes just as deep in its emotional impact, as is evidenced in the song’s lead verse. Bonamassa sings here, “Yeah, it’s a put-on/Pretend you don’t know/The self-inflicted wounds/You did it on your own/You were first to draw the knife/And last to throw the stone…Take mercy on my self-inflicted wounds.” This line is just so heart-wrenching, and it doesn’t get any less moving, either. He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “You never get away holding back those tears/Try not to cry…I’m trying to explain…Trying to own all these pain/these self-inflicted wounds/I did ‘em on my own/I was first to draw the knife/Last to throw the stone/Your trust in me/I will abuse/Oh take mercy on my/Self-inflicted wounds/I’m looking for redemption…I’m praying for forgiveness…there’s none to be found.” If this doesn’t move listeners to tear up even slightly, then said listeners are either way too hard-hearted or simply are not human. Here listeners have someone who seems to be at the end of that proverbial rope, and is just feeling so much emotional pain. It goes without saying that it is certain to generate its share of discussion while also adding even more appreciation for the album in whole. The addition of the song’s somewhat Pink Floyd-esque bridge and finale add even more interest to the song. All things considered here, this song stands out not only as one of this record’s most notable entries, but also one of the album’s most important entries, showing again why the album in whole is something that listeners will want to hear. It still is not the last of the album’s most notable entries. The classic blues style ‘I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters’ is yet another of the album’s most notable songs.
‘I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters’ immediately throws back to blues legends such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells and other similar acts thanks to its light, 12-bar blues style arrangement. That arrangement is only one part of what makes the song so notable. Its lyrical theme adds to its interest. The song’s lyrical theme is just as much of a throwback to the blues’ golden age as its musical arrangement as Bonamassa sings, “I can see the future/But that was yesterday/So my bag of tarot cards/And now I can’t see my fate/I’ve got some mind over what matters/And I’m deep down…She took a cabby/So I gotta hitch a ride/Left me in the dark/With daggers in my side/I’ve got some mind over what matters/But I’m still deep down in a hole” He goes on in similar fashion throughout the rest of the song, even singing later in the song, “Might think I’m a bad man/’Cause I made her cry/But you ain’t lived with her/And seen the other side/I tried to get to the bottom of why I made her hurt/I maybe didn’t know, but I got here…I got my Jesus/In my heart/I went to church, and boy, I did my part/I’ve got some mind over what matters, but I’m deep down in a hole.” He keeps going on about that woman even more, singing about trying to do right by her, but those efforts just not being enough. It, again, conjures thoughts of so many similar style blues works that have come before, and in turn creates a deep appreciation for this song. That appreciation, coupled with the appreciation for the previously discussed songs shows even more clearly why this record is such a strong new effort from Joe Bonamassa, and one that blues fans everywhere will appreciate. Of course, it still is not the last of the record’s most notable entries. The gentle, moving ‘Stronger Now in Broken Pieces’ will move listeners just as much as ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds,’ only in different fashion. It’s just this critic’s own take, but in this critic’s ears, it seems the song’s musical arrangement bears some slight comparison to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Words Can’t Bring Me Down’ thanks to the subtlety of the bells added to the arrangement. ‘Love Is A Gamble,’ the album’s closer instantly conjures thoughts of the one and only B.B. King while ‘the Ghost of Macon Jones’ – another break from style for Bonamassa on this album – will garner its own interest. Country music star Jamey Johnson joins Bonamassa on guest vocals for the song. ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ is one of those songs that one associates with a dimly lit night club back in the golden age of the blues. King Bee Shakedown is another break from style for Bonamassa here. It could rival the best works of the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Considering all of these songs, the others not noted here, and those more directly discussed here, the whole of this record proves to be a brave new effort from Joe Bonamassa, and one that ultimately proves to be a work that blues fans across the board will enjoy.
Joe Bonamassa’s forthcoming album Redemption is one of the most surprising and enjoyable works that the veteran bluesman has crafted to date. That is because while it boasts some familiarity for listeners in its dozen total songs, it also takes a number of risks – risks that ultimately pay off, too. The album’s opener, ‘Evil Mama’ presents some of that familiarity in its modern style blues arrangement and classic lyrical theme of a woman who is just trouble for a man. ‘I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters’ presents just as much familiarity with an arrangement that goes back to the golden age of the blues and an equally timeless lyrical theme – again about a woman who has done a man wrong. The risk came – at least in part – in the form of the deeply touching and moving ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds. This powerful opus tugs at one’s heartstrings with the subtleties of its arrangement and the cry for help from someone who is in such a bad head space. Other risks, which also pay off, include the country/blues hybrid style of ‘the Ghost of Macon Jones’ and ‘Deep In The Blues Again,’ which also boasts its own sort of country/blues hybrid sound. The rest of the album offers plenty of familiarity, which listeners are certain to appreciate just as much as the risks, which (again) add their own interest to the album. All things considered, the album proves from start to end, to be a strong new effort from Joe Bonamassa that proves easily to be one of the year’s best new blues records and potentially one of the year’s top new albums overall. More information on Redemption is available online now along with all of Joe Bonamassa’s latest news and more at:
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