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Kenny Kramme of the Joe Bonamassa Band: BluesWax DJ Gary Blues talks with Joe Bonamassa by Gary Miller

8/29/2001

BluesWax DJ Gary Blues talks with Joe Bonamassa by Gary Miller

Joe Bonamassa by Gary Miller August 29, 2001
http://www.blueswax.com/

This week DJ Gary Blues talks with "Smokin' Joe" Bonamassa whose release A New Day Yesterday is out on Okeh. This great album features guest appearances by Gregg Allman, Rick Derringer and Leslie West. DJGaryBlues caught up with Bonamassa earlier this summer.

Smokin' with Joe Bonamassa
Fox Valley Blues Festival
Kaukauna, WI

As a music journalist, I'm always surprised at Blues festivals. There's always a surprise every time you go to one. But this time I was truly surprised. About five or six years ago, I saw a program on the Bravo Network about three up-and-coming young guitarists in the USA. They were Kenny Wayne Shephard, Jonny Lang and a guy named "Smokin' Joe" Bonamassa.

Out of the three, I found this 16 year-old kid named "Smokin Joe" Bonamassa to be the most interesting. Jonny Lang was already on his way and Kenny Wayne was coming up, but this guy, Joe B., was unheard of. It's all here; Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and, maybe most of all, Stevie Ray Vaughn. Hailing from Utica, New York, Joe has been playing since he first heard Vaughn at the age of four. At age 8 he opened for B. B. King, and by twelve he was playing regularly. After glowing reviews from the King himself, Joe appeared to be ready. In his early teens he joined the band, Bloodline, which featured other musicians' sons: Waylon Krieger (Robby Krieger of the Doors son), Erin Davis (Miles Davis' kid) and Berry Oakley, Jr. (son of the Allman Brothers' bassist). Bloodline released a self-titled album.

But, alas, Bloodline didn't work out. Joe needed a hiatus, so he disappeared. He went out and woodshedded and his new work is the outcome. With great heights to be achieved, he is on his way.

There are many new kids on the scene. Few purists, everybody knows about that hang up, but the music moves forward and blues will go with it. It isn't a matter of being pablum fed by the Ugly Radio Machine. It's a matter of art changing. It's what keeps the medium healthy and strong. Joe Bonamassa has a great understanding of his place, his talent and his ability. He is a straight up, nice guy and his talents shine.

What's he been doing? As Tom Waits said, "What's he building in there? We have a right to know." I sat down with Joe Bonamassa when he toured Blues festivals this summer to see if we could find the answer.

GaryDJBlues of BluesWax: I saw a program on you and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Jonny Lang about six years ago on the Bravo Network. It was real interesting. I tried to find you, and they kept talking about Memphis, so I thought that's where you were from. I'm from Knoxville, so it's just a short hop to find out about this guy. But no luck!

Joe Bonamassa: Yeah, Memphis. That's where we cut the Bloodline album, that's where the BBC people from England flew to make the documentary. That was originally a BBC piece. I'm originally from Utica, New York, but everybody thought I was from Memphis.

BluesWax: What have you been doing since then?

JB: We had Bloodline for awhile, until '97 or so. Ever since then I have been learning how to sing and wrote some songs for the album.

BluesWax: Wood shedding then?

JB: Yeah, I did some film sound tracks. And I taught one of those Hot Licks instructional guitar videos. And then we put out this record last year, November, for Epic. [A New Day Yesterday on Okeh Records]. We have been touring a lot, so...

BluesWax: I see that you're turning up everywhere, and that's good.

JB: Yeah, keep the word out. It's a word of mouth thing, you know. We get pretty good radio support. It's not gangbusters, but it helps. We're going to release the second single in August. I think that'll do well for us. We do what we do here, you know, we do festivals. It's word of mouth. You play in front of forty people and the next night is eighty and the next is 250. It builds. It's a small build, but I'm happy to do it. It's worth it.

BluesWax: It's a little early now, but I know you are planning to put out another album. How soon will that be?

JB: I think I'm going to record it either this fall or in the winter. But I have it almost done. I have really been going all over the place, out in California, writing songs, going everywhere. Just putting demos together. I live in Washington. D.C. now. I'm all over the place. We're going to Europe in a week. It won't be a long tour. Just about 5 or 6 days. We're going to Finland and Denmark.

BluesWax: I'm still in awe of the set you played. I am really impressed with the group and your guitar playing. It's more than I expected. In fact, I was stunned.

JB: Thank you. I just go out there and play guitar, you know. I have done various variations on this band, you know--some with more songs and some with more guitar arrangements and stuff. Friends told me, "Just play your guitar." And I said, "Heck I'll do it." We're known as a Blues band, more than anything else, but we're more of a Rock band. But you know, the Blues fans know Blind Faith; they know Hendrix, the British stuff. They don't really care if we do a Rory Gallagher song, or a Jethro Tull song. As long as you keep it bluesy and mix it up a bit. That's what I try to do.

BluesWax: That's what I need to know. Thanks Joe.

JB: You're welcome and I appreciate it.


(Published in Blueswax 08/29/2001)
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