Album Reviews

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, Don't Explain. Commentary by Stephanie Hussey

Review and Commentary by Stephanie Hussey

bethandjoeduoThere's an old tale that musicians tell about how if you walk on down to the windswept crossroads at the junction of Highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi right around thestroke of midnight, the devil himself may come and perfectly tune your guitar or give you that sensational voice you want – albeit for a price. I always wondered what would happen if two musicians showed up at those crossroads at the same time - what happens then. Well methinks they call the tune, ramble on and we get a CD filled with amazing cover songs recreated by the immense talents of Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, titled Don't Explain.

Joe Bonamassa plays his instrument in an almost unearthly style. His fingers dance over the strings creating sounds of depth as he wrings you dry with spirited emotional finesse. When Beth Hart joins in and sings, the sounds fuse, complement, harmonize and become one. Beth can moan and wail expressing the deepest sorrows of a condemned sinner but just as easily grind with grit about love finding her. These two performers artfully blend their styles and sound giving us old songs, breathed with a new airy light and a touch of the old time slinky blues.

If Joe and Beth went to those cross roads I don't think it was to make a pact with the devil but to sing and play, and see what the Mississippi winds blew their way. Also, I think after listening to "Don't Explain", that it was to show that old devil a new thing or two about the blues.

SONG-BY-SONG

Sinner's Prayer: This song is crazy-wild and digs deep. The beat thumps hard and the slink-slank of the guitar meshes with Beth's vocals creating that gritty groove this song requires. "...have mercy."

Chocolate Jesus: This took a few plays in the player before I started grooving with it. It's a bluesy gospel with an upswing tempo that I found after a few plays, you start humming and singing right along with it.

Your Heart is as Black as Night: Out of all the tracks on this CD this is my least favorite. Musically it's great. It has a slow, slinky feel to it and Joe kicks it out of the park on his guitar solo. Beth's voice on this is well done but it doesn't have the same panache as the other songs.

For My Friend: I do like the lyrics and Beth's voice is edgy/spastic on this song. Musically it's well done, unfortunately the song as a whole really doesn't do a lot for me.

Don't Explain: Beth's voice is very sultry, very "old school". Her tone and inflections, the swoop and sway gives one the feeling of "old school" soul. Beth gives her all on this one and it is just beautiful. Joe's guitar weeps and winds its way in and out throughout the song that is amazing and skillfully done. Perfection!

I'd Rather Go Blind: Another beautifully re-crafted song. Beth's voice cracks, weeps and moans as she tells her story; then Joe retells the story with his guitar playing during the solo which leads back to Beth to finish it.

Something's Got a Hold On Me: One of my favorites. I love how the deep soul digging opener segues into almost a gospel sound that appears to have been caught by the blues devil himself then shaken so hard that you feel compelled to shimmy and shake.

I'll Take Care of You: Joe's skills on the guitar really shine on this song. You feel the edge and pain of this song in every note that he sends flying through his fingertips – spellbinding playing.

Well, Well: I gotta say this one should be getting radio play on the stations. It has a phenomenal beat and a hook that just won't quit. Everyone that I've played it for is tapping their foot and humming the song. Yes, IT IS THAT GOOD!

SIDE NOTE: The opener of this reminded me a bit of Robert Plant's Takamba – not sure why.

Ain't No Way: Ok, I'll admit it, this song made me cry. Joe's opening guitar playing leading into Beth's soulful voice is tender and sweet. The lyrics are heart-wrenching and Beth weaves and wraps her voice around them making you bleed with her. If the voice wasn't enough Joe's guitar notes silhouette's, harmonizes and shoulder's Beth's voice, like a best friend listening and helping her carry the pain. Beth and Joe pour the emotion out in this song, so beautiful. Kudos!

SIDE NOTE: The opening notes have shades of In the Light by Led Zeppelin in it.

 

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Out On The Tiles

Mountain Jam, Hunter, NY 2012

Whitey is a bass player in the rock band, The Tall Weeds. He has been writing reviews for BBR for several years now and is a trusted soul in music. He went to Mountain Jam  2012, this year in Hunter, NY. Here's what he had to say:

I had the opportunity to go to Mountain Jam on Saturday. Wow! Now I don't know a lot about the bands that played, but I love to experience live music!

”Mountainmountainjam

The 1st band I saw was "The Word". This is Robert Randolph, great steel guitar player, John Medeski on keys, and from the North Mississippi Allstars, Chris Chew on bass, with Luther and Cody Dickinson on guitar and drums. What a groove! I saw Luther play with the Black Crowes a while ago and dug him then. Great music and will be very interested in hearing more. They said they would be recording an a new record in the near future. Here is their first album , The Word, produced by John Medeski, released in 2001.

For more information about The Word, visit their page here.

Next I saw, Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds. They are a blues band, who had a small woman vocalist with a giant voice. She had a very "Janis" like voice. Then got to see blues guitarist, Matt Schofield. Wow! He rocked. Real good set. Huey Lewis' guitarist was in the band as well.

Gov't Mule was one of the headliners. I never saw Warren Haynes before. He is a very underrated guitarist. His playing was on fire, and his singing was soulful. The band jammed for a long time. I was very into their vibe. It was great. 

They brought out the remaining members of the band and played a set of music in honor of Levon Helm. I was very moved by the music and love. Gov't Mule came out to jam some more. It was a great night and I became a fan of some new music. I will be at Mountain Jam next year. Till then rock on!

Life without music is like life, without life.

~Whitey.

To purchase music related to this show, check out the Radio Woodstock Store here.

Read our review of Keys to the Kingdom by the North Mississippi Allstars here.

Read our live show review of NMA with Robert Plant here.

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