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Kenny Kramme of the Joe Bonamassa Band: October 2003


MNBlues / Blues On Stage / Blues Deluxe Review by Gary Weeks 10/2003

CD Review Joe Bonamassa Blues Deluxe (Medalist Entertainment 0538602292) by Gary Weeks Review date: October 2003

"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"Achievement for Blues on the InternetPresented by The Blues Foundation

Early in 2003, as a way of "blowing off some steam" after a couple of years of non-stop touring, young guitar maestro Joe Bonamassa headed to New York City's Unique Recording Studios to polish off a few old blues classics and add some material of his own.

Even in his teen-age years Bonamassa was a "prodigy" by those who witnessed his onstage jam sessions with Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker and the late guitar hero Danny Gatton. Allman Brother producer Tom Dowd and B.B. King have put their two cents in commenting on Joe's unwavering talents. George Thorogood had Bonamassa fill in on the second guitar seat when bandmember Jim Suhler couldn't make the gig. Now how many headliners do that?

These crossroads and musical posts have proven inspiration enough for Joe Bonamassa to issue "Blues Deluxe." What the listener gets is a package of guitar virtuosity showing a talent not to be overlooked. Bonamassa's take on "Walkin Blues" resembles the Les Paul boozy-slide fingerwork of Allman Brother Warren Haynes. "Mumbling Word" is an acoustic bottle-neck number that could find Joe equally at home on the Delta. The title cut "Blues Deluxe" is an old Jeff Beck recording from the album "Truth." A slow blues building to a plateau of stinging notes and flourishes that even an old rocker like Beck couldn't ignore. Twirling the volume knobs in this and a laidback "Long Distance Blues" recalls the tortured soul of Roy Buchanan. An obscure John Lee Hooker "Burning Hell" becomes a molten slide fest of bourbon boogie taking effect at the chicken shack. (Cautionary advice is to never drive on an open highway with this song past 11. You will be ticketed for speeding.)

What's an added bonus is Bonamassa's uncanny emulation of these forefathers. His skills are no less diminished when he tackles "Left Overs" written by Albert Collins. The spirit of the "Master of The Telecaster" is heard in the nimble fretwork as notes are punctuated with emotionality and spiritual rejuvenation.

Enough emphasis has been placed on axe-cutting. Even more impressive is Bonamassa's vocals. Using his voice as a second instrument breathes a freshness into Buddy Guy's "Man of Many Words" that attempts to stick close to its original fare while injecting funk fluid into its musical veins. A fast acoustic "Woke Up Dreaming" is speeded blues as Bonamassa's vocals become a landmark of confessional urgency when a man confronts an abyss in his life. But Joe doesn't wallow in puddles of depression for long. Not when he is tearing it up in "Wild About You Baby" that devoids itself of cynicism.

Bassist Eric Czar and drummer Kenny Kramme never trail far behind. When the two interlock, the Richter Scale goes haywire when they are blowing off the roof in "Burning Hell" or Elmore James' "Wild About You Baby" that lets Bonamassa display slide techniques without the issue of restraint at hand. Benny Harrison's Hammond B-3 finds a jazzy groove in "Left Overs." Former Johnny Winter sideman Jon Paris assists Bonamassa in making "Walkin Blues" a Southern staple of classic rock.

A fitting gesture Joe Bonamassa would craft something like Blues Deluxe in a year that Congress calls the "year of the blues." The only difference being Bonamassa is on his own bandwagon and not hitching it to those caravans whose musical creativity sputters with false starts and stops.

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