As a longtime favorite at Piere's, it was quite fitting that nationally renowned guitarist Joe Bonamassa chose to record his first live album at our humble musical Mecca. Wil Putt and Neal Parnin of Soundmill Studios were on hand to capture the explosive energy of this young blues guitar god who many claim is the reincarnation of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
For those who have yet to venture out to see one of Bonamassa's stimulating shows, his style is founded in such legends as B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan but with the pizzazz of 80s guitar masters, most notably Eddie Van Halen. These two disparate influences combine to create an electrifying blend that appeals to fans of blues and guitar rock alike. One minute Joe is taking you deep into Mississippi and the next you're flying along on a melodic guitar solo that never fails to impress with it's technical and emotional prowess.
The album opens with three and a half minutes of instrumental jamming packed with enough sizzle that I was immediately impressed despite my jaded "rock-critic" ears. "Cradle Rock" continues the themes of the first track, mixing raw blues with a driving rock rhythm section and hints of Eddie Van Halen in the solos. An extended version of the catchy, radio-friendly single "Miss You, Hate You" provides a poppy hook-laden relief from the heavier blues songs but it isn't long before Bonamassa must return to his roots. With a classic SRV blues feel, "Walk In My Shadows" is a straightforward blues song, although one in which bassist Eric Czar is allowed to step out from behind the shadows. The ten minutes of classic blues of "If Heartaches Were Nickels" is broken periodically by fiery guitar fretwork and a drum solo compliments of Kenny Kramme. The final track, "Don't Burn Down That Bridge" is equal parts blues and rock and features an intense bass solo midway through the song while the rest is driven by Bonamassa's mind-blowing guitar work.
As one would expect from a guitar album, the guitar is consistently clean, clear, and right up front in the mix, proving the Joe has earned every glowing accolade that has been showered upon him. The drums and bass are there but not always prominent… as the genre dictates, this is all about the guitar. Just the right amount of crowd noise is mixed in to flesh out the live experience without becoming annoying. I must admit, for one who isn't really a fan of live albums I'm impressed with the quality of this recording, the energy of the band, and with the melodic and technical talents of this amazing guitarist.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, June 2002.