Album Review: Joe Bonamassa – Blues Deluxe Vol. 2

Joe Bonamassa - live in Birmingham by Haluk Gurer

In 2003, the then 26 year-old Joe Bonamassa, released an album titled Blues Deluxe. Twenty years later, he returns to his blues roots with a new studio album, Blues Deluxe Vol. 2, while also releasing a remastered version of Blues Deluxe volume 1. Both will be released on October 6th via Joe’s own label: J&R Adventures.

A brief history lesson on volume 1 is in order before we turn to volume 2. The original Blues Deluxe release featured nine cover versions of songs by classic blues artists and three original tracks. Joe claims it was recorded as a way of “blowing off steam” after the tour in support of his second album and (perhaps more significantly) after being dropped by two major record labels. While his first two albums were at the rock end of the blues spectrum, Blues Deluxe was Classic Blues with a capital C and B; the blues turned up to eleven. A colleague once came into my office while I was playing the track “Woke Up Dreaming” from volume 1: his comment was, “Flash git!”. At the time, I defended Joe but, listening back now, the comment was not entirely unjustified. He was a young guitarist with something to prove… and Blues Deluxe was an extraordinarily effective calling card!

Blues Deluxe Vol. 2 by Joe Bonamassa - album coverSo, here we are twenty years later with Blues Deluxe Vol. 2, and the question is: is he still a flash git? I would say no. Where Volume 1 was recorded by an artist with something to prove, Volume 2 has been recorded by an established musician whose playing and vocals have grown and matured. Having said that, I do not want to sound like I am suggesting this album is in any way workman like. Rather, it is an album recorded by a musician who, while no longer the new kid on the blues block, still has a love and a passion for the genre that flows from his fingers and screams from his vocals on every track. He has clearly matured as a musician and, while his solos remain as “flash” as ever, I think the “git” is no longer deserved as the solos flow from the music adding to the tracks rather than distracting by screaming, “look at me, look at me!”. Also, as far as I’m concerned, Joe’s vocals are so much better; more mature, more confident. Arguably, on volume 1, he was a blues guitarist who could sing, on volume 2, it is clear that his is now a blues vocalist too.

Blues Deluxe Vol. 2 is also an album that has been recorded by a musician that can call on a much richer palette while in the studio. Where volume 1 was essentially guitar, bass, drums and organ, volume 2 adds a horn section, backing vocals, guest guitarists and (probably) the kitchen sink. Joe is happy to share the musical spotlight. For example on “I Want to Shout About It”, arguably, the most prominent solo comes from Paulie Cerra on saxophone. (This track also features some outstanding backing vocals from Dannielle DeAndrea and Charles Jones.) I also thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration with Kirk Fletcher and Josh Smith on “The Truth Hurts” where the first vocals we hear are from from Josh (I think) and the first guitar solo is from Kirk (I think). While I might have got the attributions wrong, it is fantastic to hear three musicians having a great time bouncing off each other and, clearly, having a ball.

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The track listing for Blues Deluxe Vol 2 is:

1) Twenty-Four Hour Blues (originally performed by Bobby “Blue” Bland)
2) It’s Hard But It’s Fair (originally performed by Bobby Parker)
3) Well, I Done Got Over It (originally performed by Guitar Slim)
4) I Want to Shout About It (originally performed by Ronnie Earle & The Broadcasters)
5) Win-O (originally performed by Pee Wee Crayton)
6) Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again) *original song written by Joe Bonamassa & Tom Hambridge
7) Lazy Poker Blues (originally performed by Fleetwood Mac)
8) You Sure Drive a Hard Bargain  (originally performed by Albert King)
9) The Truth Hurts Feat Kirk Fletcher and Josh Smith (originally performed by Kenny Neal)
10) Is It Safe To Go Home *original song written by Josh Smith

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Check out the video for the single “Hope You Realize It (Goodbye Again)” at the end of this review for a taste of the joys that await you on Blues Deluxe Vol 2.

Pre-order the album from the UK and Europe from https://lnk.to/joebonamassa.
Pre-order the album from the USA from https://shop.jbonamassa.com/collections/blues-deluxe-vol-2.

Header image by Haluk Gurer.

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