Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa
Record Label: J & R Adventures (Joe Bonamassa and Roy Weisman)
Release Date: September 26th UK and Europe; September 27th US.
Beth Hart (vocals)
Joe Bonamassa (guitar, vocals on "Well, Well")
Blondie Chaplin (guitar)
Carmine Rosas (bass)
Arlan Scheirbaum (keyboards)
Anton Fig (drums, percussion)
This is the band that was assembled for Joe Bonamassa's (2009) number one blues album, The Ballad of John Henry.
This is an album of blues, soul tracks that have been re-worked using Beth Hart's powerful vocals, which she crafted to pay homage to the masters of Etta James, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. Joe Bonamassa continues to embrace his legendary guitar talent and carefully places razor sharp guitar solos, accents, blues riffs and soul rhythms to these songs. This duo, supported by a fabulous band of musicians who have played with Joe Bonamassa before, created a piece of work that is a contemporary take on traditional blues and soul records, while being respectful of their integrity. Kevin Shirley is the producer, guiding this work and challenging the artists to realize their visions. In a word, it is exquisite. Don't Explain is a welcome addition to any rock, blues, jazz or soul collection.
Track by Track:
1. Sinner's Prayer.
This has been covered several times, with the original by either Lowell Fulson (1950) or Ray Charles (1957) often together with BB King. Joe blasts the sound barrier with his unmistakable blues riffs, while Hart brings a heartfelt plea for forgiveness that is soul wrenching.
2. Chocolate Jesus.
Tom Waits' secret form of worship is picked up with a cafe style tempo with Beth and Joe's rendition of this jazz/soul classic. It has the tone of the song "Fever" because of its wit and the phrases that snap you to attention. Beth is genius, give her chocolate, please.
3. Your Heart Is As Black As Night.
Beth Hart is known in the rock world for her wailing edgy voice. She was challenged by this material, as it is noted that Kevin Shirley chose her to perform on this record because he knew her voice could handle the varied soul history that would be revisited. When Hart bellows gentle notes, it makes the stronger phrases stand out and shows instrumental control.
4. For My Friends.
There is all kind of talk about this album; rock, soul, blues. What about the funk? We want the funk! Well, the very funky guitar line with a heavy bass comes through on this song. This Bill Withers tune is titled, For My Friend. I can't imagine that they've added the 's' to make the word "friend" plural by accident. The song becomes larger than life in the magnificent match of Bonamassa and Hart as both of their strengths come charging through with loyalty to each other.
5. Don't Explain.
Billie Holiday's swoon of forgiveness for the lover who treats her wrong is risen from the archive with this masterpiece title track. This whole album is impeccably produced, and this song is its centerpiece. Billie Holiday's blues voice has a sweet edge that highlights a note and then lets it float. Beth Hart brought her signature style to this song, but she paid respect to Holiday, by keeping this subtle quality. She curves her voice, letting it rise and fall and then rise again, becoming a muted echo. Joe's restrained use of soft chords and riffs on the fringes of the phrases brings his intellect into the mix. His guitar soars, especially on this track, which shows that not only is he talented, but he always does what is best for the song. The traditional instrumentation, bass and orchestra pieces are a well of support for this production, keeping its elegance, with a contemporary move forward. Maybe we can get Beth to sing 'Some Other Spring,' if we ask her nicely.
6. I'd Rather Go Blind.
Oh, Etta! As of this date, you are still with us and we are blessed. Lucky for us. And lucky for us, Joe Bonamassa listens to music when he can't sleep, which is what inspired this album's compilation throw back to begin with. He wrote to Shirley in the middle of the night suggesting that they do a soul album with Beth who agreed (press release). Lucky for us, also, Beth Hart takes her job very seriously, causing her stellar recording of this to takes its place in history. Her voice is bold when it needs to be and vulnerable as to fit the love story in the song. Joe supports the track with subtle blues rock phrasing that keeps the song on course. Like so many songs on this album, it builds up to a magnificent peak, and then quiets down to a beautiful solo. Really fascinating work here that makes the original even better !
7. Something's Got A Hold On Me.
Another Etta James work that has been charmed. This is a high energy, hand raising, bootie shakin classic. Beth and Joe's version makes it sound like it could be a Sam and Dave original. Dancing fun, call and response, when soul take us to church. Say hey !
8. I'll Take Care of You.
Brook Benton. Piano jazz opens this sultry mist. Van Morrison covered this song in a cool, almost monotone fashion, as the track lends itself to that style. Beth and Joe let the song escalate, with Beth screaming out her soul riff which invites Joe to meet the maker with a blazing guitar solo.
9. Well, Well.
Delaney Bramlett. This is the only duet on the album that includes Joe Bonamassa's vocals. The guitar work to me, sounds very much like a Lay Down Sally, Clapton piece. A really great vibe of upbeat rockabilly. Beth does some scat vocals which are a lot of fun and the harmonies are a mark of a great team.
10. Ain't No Way.
The opener to this song, reminds me of "In the Light" or "I'm Gonna Crawl," by Zeppelin, deep and ethereal. Then it goes on to rise up and grasp the rest of the scales that are left and twist into a great tune that unfolds for Beth to introduce her moaning rendition of this great Aretha Franklin song. It is in a lower key, but there is a great balance of blues guitar, quiet drum effects, keyboard work and orchestral production coming together.
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~ Long live the women of the Blues ~