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  • Beth Hart (2013)

    Posted May, 2013

     

    Beth Hart. Haven’t heard of her? Okay, well, she’s not quite yet a household name but just wait, she will be. What makes me so sure? I’m glad you asked. There are several reasons. 

    First, for some people, it just seems to be a blinding glimpse of the obvious. The story is told that, when she was four years old, she saw a commercial advertising pianos that had as a musical backdrop Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. In the middle of the night, she got up and played a segment of the song on the family piano, which drew out all of the family in amazement. She says of that moment, “ . . . the ham in me knew right away that this was what I wanted to do. I just knew . . .”

    Second, she’s been in the music business for over twenty years, getting a big, early boost by winning the national title to Ed McMahon’s Star Search – long before there was an American Idol or The Voice. As her reputation grew, she garnered the attention of such guitar greats as Jeff Beck and Slash, working collaboratively with them on various projects. 

    What has apparently set Beth’s musical career on a whole new trajectory was the result of a serendipitous meeting with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, in a hotel lobby. Beth was asked to join Bonamassa in 2011 on the Kevin Shirley produced CD,Don’t Explain – a great album of soul-rock covers. It was this CD that brought the classically trained Hart to the attention of Boomerocity and legions of other new fans-for-life.

    Adding to the growing fan basecame Jeff Beck’s invitation for Beth to join him on the2012 Kennedy Center Honors to pay tribute to blues legend Buddy Guy, performing the Etta James classic (and one of Boomerocity’s all-time-favorites) I’d Rather Go Blind. While viewers may have tuned in to see Led Zeppelin or David Letterman being honored, as the Baltimore Sun wrote, “Everyone was on their feet when {Beck and Hart’s} soul-searing performance ended.”

    I can second that “emotion” by saying that every time I post the video of that performance on my Facebook

    What a reintroduction to America!

    In March of this year, Ms. Hart followed up Don’t Explain with the critically acclaimedBang Bang Boom Boom. It was in support of this album that I was fortunate and privileged to speak with her about the album after her return from touring in Europe. Despite the extensive globetrotting, she sounded relaxed and well-rested. Obviously, she’s quite the seasoned tour veteran.

    As we started our conversation I asked Beth what the reaction to Bang Bang Boom Boomhas been so far both here and abroad.

    “Well, you know, I just love the CD so much. I’m so excited about it. But, you know, I know better – I’ve been around long enough to know not everyone is going to like it, right? So, when I started doing the press work, I can’t believe how amazingly supportive everyone has been and it just thrills me to pieces! 

    If I’ve counted correctly, in your twenty year career, Bang Bang Boom Boom is your ninth solo album (counting the ones with your bands), not counting your two duets with Joe Bonamassa, correct?

    “It counts the Don’t Explainrecord but not the See Saw record. The Seesawrecord will be the tenth. Also included in that is the Live at Paradiso DVD that we also made as a record. So, it would actually be the tenth if you include Seewaw.

    With that impressive body of work solidly under her belt, I asked Beth what was different in making this album compared with her other work.

    “Well, by far, the first record I ever made was a record called Ocean of Souls. I was twenty years old. I didn’t like it because I don’t think I was really confident in myself and the people I was working with. It was kind of all over the place. I was scared. But, then, once it was finished, I thought it was nice. But the actual process of it – you know, I’m kind of a neurotic, OCD type of personality and I’m used to being in the studio for years because my producer was also my manager for years – since I was fifteen. So, we spent a lot of time in the studio together but now we were actually making a real record. 

    “Then, when I signed over at Atlantic, I made a record called Immortal which was my first major record company album and I didn’t really enjoy that, either. Again, I loved the music. I loved my band. But it was the process. I was going, ‘I guess making records is just not for me. I’m really not enjoying the process.’

    “It wasn’t until I produced my third record, Screamin for My Supper, with a good buddy of mine, Tal Herzberg, who was my bass player. Then I started really enjoying making records! Maybe it was because I was more in control. Maybe that gave me more security. I could kind of do things the way I wanted. But, still, it never became my favorite thing to do until I did a record called 37 Days where we started recording everything live together as a band to tape with vocals. That’s when I found, “Okay! This is the way I’m supposed to make records! This is how I love it!” So, yeah, that’s the only way I like to do it now.”

    As for her latest record, “It was real fluid, easy and exciting. Ever since we started with Joe Bonamassa on the Don’t Explainrecord with Kevin Shirley producing – who’s an absolute genius! He’s my favorite person to work with! I hope to God I get to work with him on every record for the rest of my life! And, then, the second record I worked with Kevin Shirley was Bang Bang Boom Boom – this record that we’re talking about tonight. And, then the third record is the Seesawrecord, which has not come out yet. But all three records – the first one, Don’t Explain, four days to make the record. On Bang Bang Boom Boom,six days to make the record and Seesawwas six days. So Kevin works fast and we do everything simultaneous to tape and it’s just heaven that way! It’s really great!”

    As I’ve stated in other interviews, I know that artists refuse to pick a favorite song on their albums because it’s like picking your favorite child. However, I asked Beth if she were to pick only one song from the CD as THE song to play for someone to hopefully entice them to pick it up, which song would it be? Before I could even finish the question, she blurted out unequivocally, “Baddest Blues. That’s by far my fave. Yeah, I love that song so much and I think it embodies the colors of the whole record within that one.”

    Ms. Hart then shared the story behind that song.

    “Well, one of my favorite songs is the Billie Holiday song, Don’t Explain, and a song called Strange Fruit. Nina Simone does a phenomenalversion of Strange Fruit. I grew up as a kid just being a huge Billie fan because my mother was and my mother always had just the best taste in music. Anyway, I was thinking about those two songs. I started working on the music first, which is what I always do when I’m writing. I kind of got some music down for it and started working on arrangements for it. I had a bit of a melody that I was messing with, as well. And, then, when it came time for the lyrics - which is another thing I do, I let the music dictate to me what the lyric is going to be, what it makes me think of, whether it’s a memory or projection of some dream I may have of the future.

    “So, what it started speaking to me about was my mother and father’s divorce. My mother is such a strong, strong survivor of a woman but it broke her for a period and she ended up in bed for a few months. She just couldn’t get out. And to see such a powerful, strong woman broken like that was devastating to a little girl to see that happen to your mother. Also, Billie Holiday, the pain she suffered in her life. Billie and my mother remind me so much of each other. So, that was my muse for the song. I just love it even though it’s a painful topic, the truth is she did survive. She made it through it and better for it on the other side. She’s just an honorable, beautiful woman. She’s seventy-seven and she’s still strong and has more energy than I’ll ever have.”

    My research showed – as does Beth’s performances – that she’s a very intense person. I wondered if writing a song as personal and emotionally impactful to her, personally, does that drain her.

    “No! God no! Not at all! It’s just the opposite. You know what does drain me that I make sure I stay away from at all costs? Is trying to write something for radio or trying to write something that you think will be a hit. That is exhausting. Forget it. You can never do it. You never know what they’re going to play. It’s a waste of time. But what gives me energy is getting to the truth. The funny thing is for me to tell the truth. Even when I’m ready and I want to and I want to be able to divulge whatever things I’m dealing with or struggling with – or even excited about – to be about to articulate it in the most honest way possible is very, very hard. Not because I’m scared of anybody hearing it but I don’t know if I can get me to do it. Because I could be in denial or be in a protective place where I don’t want to admit to myself that’s how I feel. So that’s really what the struggle is. It’s not the music, it’s the lyric. Really, I work on it and I work on it and I try to get myself to feel as safe and secure as I can to just be able to be a real human being; to not have it together; to not try and convince myself that I’m okay. And when I finally let myself divulge that, yeah, I’m not okay. I’m still screwed up with stuff, there’s something so freeing about that, getting that load off and go, ‘Ah!’, you know? That’s my favorite part about writing. I love to get to that place.”

    I hate asking artists questions that I know have been asked them a million times. However, since I know that Ms. Hart is a new name to some Boomerocity readers, I had to ask (for your benefit, of course) who her musical influences were as she was growing up. 

    “I have so many, oh my god! Beethoven, Bach, Rachmoninoff, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, The Ramones, Carol King, James Taylor, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline. I could just go on and on and on. Every genre of music I’ve ever been turned on to – any Latin music, African music, Chinese music, any kind that I’ve ever heard in my life, I’ve just been dumbfounded by the miracle of it, the beauty of it. Human beings have so much to say in all forms of art and it’s all over the world. It’s so beautiful. So gorgeous. It really shows you how people really feel about what’s going on in the world. It’s just fantastic. There’s some good stuff out there.”

    Some in the industry have compared Beth to the late, great Janis Joplin. I asked her how she felt about that comparison.

    “Oh, I just absolutely adore her! You know, I never grew up listening to her. It wasn’t until I got into my early twenties that I kept hearing people say, ‘Hey, you remind me of Janis.’ So I said, ‘I’ve gotta go out and I gotta get this Janis person and see who this is.’ Well! When I got some of her records and when I got some video tapes back when they had video stores and I watched some of her stuff live, I just realized that I was really looking a real legend; someone who was a pioneer; someone who had unbelievable courage; such talent and huge range! I think she would’ve gone on to do so much more great and fabulous art. It’s an absolute tragedy to die so young but what she left behind was wonderful, I think, for men and absolutely for women. No matter who you are, if you get enough fight in you and gumption in you, you can do anything! She showed that a white woman could do heavy rock and roll and make it fabulous. She really delivered that. Every time someone mentions Janis to me, I’m so honored and happy to hear that! Of course!”

    In a gee-whiz moment, I mentioned that I thought it would be great if she did a gig or two with Janis’ old band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Ms. Hart said, “You know, I got to work quite a bit with Sam Andrew (original and surviving member of BBHC), who was there original guitar player. He’s fantastic! He worked with us when we did the off-Broadway Love Janis. He’s a lovely man. Such a warm and kind man. Highly intelligent. Oh yeah! I feel like an idiot when I’m talking to him but I love him anyway! Ha! Ha!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

    With such great names having influenced her musical tastes as she was growing up, I asked her who was capturing her attention these days.

    “Oh god! So many people are grabbing my attention! I’m crazy in love with Vintage Trouble and, thankfully, I can say that I know the guys very, very well. They’re great guys! What AMAZINGperformers! Great music and so soulful! Ty Taylor is one of the best front men I’ve seen on stage. I’m a big fan! Aloe Blacc is so fantastic, the music he’s doing. Unbelievable talent! I was the hugest fan in the world of Amy Winehouse. I know we just lost her a few years back now but I just loved what she was doing. I thought she was right up there with Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. Her writing, her singing, her phrasing – just an extraordinary talent. I’m a big fan of Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. She’s a great songwriter! Great, great music they’re coming up with over there. I’m into Gary Clark, Jr. right now. So, yeah, there’s some stuff out there that I really enjoy!”

    Beth Hart has had to deal with a few personal matters in her life. Those challenges have been thoroughly covered in other excellent interviews and I saw no need whatsoever to have her rehash them in this interview. However, I know that she’s learned a lot from her challenges and I asked her what encouraging advice would she like to give to women – and even men – who deal with the same matters as she has and does.

    “One in four people with mental illness will die of suicide. That’s a fact – a statistic. There’s no getting around that. If you have a bipolar disorder, it’s so dangerous. You absolutely, ABSOLUTELYhave to find a doctor you trust and will get you on proper medication and then you have to take that medication. Just like you have to eat to live, you have to take the medication to not kill yourself or go so manic, so crazy that you end up in a hospital several times a year or you may hurt someone else.

    “It’s a dangerous, dangerous disease. It’s not your fault. There’s no guilt or shame. That’s a big part of the illness – you feel very ashamed, very guilty. You don’t understand why you keep behaving this way. But it’s not because you’re bad at all – in any way. You’re sick. There really is help that can really make a difference in your life! Please! Get a good doctor and medicine and do whatever you can to learn how to take care of that brain! There’s a lot of wonderful, natural ways, also that help the brain but not without medication.”

    With our time winding up, I asked Beth the same final question I have asked many other artists: When she’s performed her last gig and she’s gone to that great stage in the sky, how does she want to be remembered?

    “I hope that I’ll be remembered that I really put it out there and loved being alive. How beautiful it is to be alive! And the gift – the gift of life, making music and having people you love; your family, your friends. Food! How wonderful food is and nature and God. And, if you don’t believe in God, that’s cool, too, you know. Being an atheist, maybe is into the forest or something. It doesn’t matter. Just enjoy life and, hopefully, that came through the music – the joy of making music and of being alive, more than anything!”

    Beth will undoubtedly be around for many years to come and will be delighting fans with her albums and performances. Check out her website (here) to stay in the loop about her latest tour schedule and upcoming CD releases.

  • Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa Live In Amsterdam (CD & DVD)

    Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa Live In Amsterdam (CD & DVD)
    Artists: Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa
    Label/Studio: J&R Adventures
    Release Date: March 25, 2014
    Review Date: March 23, 2014

    If you’ve read Boomerocity for very long at all then you, a) already know that I’m a HUGE fan of both Beth Hart (see the Boomerocity interview with her here) as well as of Joe Bonamassa.  Suffice it to say, my opinion of either of them hasn’t changed with the dual CD/DVD release of Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa Live In Amsterdam. 

    The recently GRAMMY nominated Hart and Bonamassa,  will deliver Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Live In Amsterdam (2DVD/Blu-ray/2CD) – their first jointly recorded live offering. Beth’s amazingly powerful voices and Bonamassa’s legendary guitar abilities make this offering a true audio/visual treat. Recorded live at the historic Koninklijk Theater Carré in Amsterdam, the smokin’ hot performance blows you away with their performances of songs from the duo's 2011 debut album Don't Explain and the follow-up to it, Seesaw.  You’ll hear incredible live performances of songs originally made famous by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Tom Waits, Ray Charles, Donnie Hathaway, Lucinda Williams, Bill Withers, Delaney & Bonnie, Buddy Miles, Tina Turner, Slackwax, Melody Gardot, Nina Simone, and more.

    This project was born from what Hart, Bonamassa, and Bonamassa's long-time producer Kevin Shirley call a "crazy idea" to record a catalog of songs in a way that recalls the days when a band recorded live in the studio with little or no overdubs; the days when the vocalist was happy when a take was done regardless of personal performance.

    "What we're trying to capture is an era of reaction and spontaneity – something that was a great inspiration for me as a budding musician," explained Bonamassa. "It's a bygone era in lieu of modern times and digital studio manipulation. We wanted to do the exact opposite of that for this live concert. There were no nets and what you hear is what was sung and played that night."

    Both Hart and Bonamassa were heavily influenced by these songs and the artists who originally performed them. "We're doing these amazing cover songs and in doing them, and what's so great about doing them, is that it shows part of what excited us and made us want to become artists when we were young and just starting out," said Hart. "You can see that a lot of this was an influence with me, and Joe, and the other musicians, you can hear it in the way everyone plays and performs. This was music that they loved, that touched them. And when you do covers, you get to make them personal. That was part of the goal – to make it like it's your story too. Otherwise how does it come across sincere? I think that's one of the challenges and it's very fulfilling if we feel like we're doing that."

    The one-two punch of Hart's powerhouse vocals and Bonamassa's blistering solos both honors and reinvents the original recordings. Featuring 22 songs and over two hours of bonus and behind-the-scenes footage, the sonic pairing that critics everywhere are calling a "match made in heaven" are backed by the same world class band that kept the grooves going on both albums: Anton Fig (drums, percussion), Carmine Rojas (bass), Blondie Chaplin (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), Arlan Schierbaum (keyboards). This time out, their mighty sound is augmented by a horn section, with Lee Thornburg (trumpet and percussion), Ron Dziubla (saxophone and percussion), and Carlos Perez Alfonso (trombone and percussion).

    Boomerocity favorites from this package are:

        The fun, crowd-pleasing Amsterdam, Amsterdam.  This tune gets in your head and won’t let go.  The word “fun” comes to mind and you certainly get a sense that that is exactly what is taking place both on stage and in the audience.

        The bluesy and mournful I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know generated an infinite number of slaps on the repeat button. Beth’s voice is especially amazing as is Joe’s blistering guitar work.  I’d almost say that this tune is worth the price of the entire package but I’m saving that comment for . . .

        I’d Rather Go Blind.  I’ll say it right here and now:  Since we no longer have the great Etta James with us any longer, I can say with absolutely NO reservations that Beth Hart owns this classic.  The bar is sufficiently high enough that I doubt anyone else will ever be able to take this song away for her and call it theirs like Beth has.  Yeah, she’s that great!

  • Beth Hart Discusses Better Than Home

    Posted November, 2015

    Photo by Greg Watermann

         

    To say that Beth Hart is one of the most amazing new female singer/songwriters of the new millennia would be an understatement. 

    Literally discovered in the 90’s while performing on the streets of L.A. by David Wolf (who became her close friend and manager). He managed to land her a record deal with Atlantic in a matter of weeks.

    Her talent has landed her on TV (both performing as well as her songs being used on shows) and even in front of our current president (along with the iconic Jeff Beck). 

    Because of her openness about her battles with booze, drugs, bad relationships and being bi-polar, Beth Hart has inspired many to fight the good fight against their own personal demons.

    I was first turned on to her work four years ago by way of a duet album she recorded with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, entitled “Don’t Explain”, in 2011. She won me over with her treatment of the Etta James hit, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, making permanent and me an instant fan. A couple of years later, I had the thrill of conducting my first interview with this incredible artist. 

    I was recently afforded yet another opportunity to chat with her about her latest CD, “Better Than Home” (an album I absolutely love, by the way), prefaced my first question about it by stating that I felt that it was quite an introspective album from her, then asking if that was an accurate observation.

    “Yes, I would say so. I mean, I typically tend to be pretty vulnerable and open in my writing, anyway. But this record, in particular, went a little deeper there. I turned in a lot of songs to Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens. A lot! These are the ones that they felt the strongest about recording.  I think that the chose a collection that just happened to be on a super personal level that they thought would work together for a record.”

    I shared with Beth that my favorite cut from the disc is “Tell Them To Hold On” and asked her to share her story behind it.

    “Thank you. I love that song! I started writing that a few years ago – several years ago, actually. What inspired me was that I went into the hospital and I really

         

    Photo by Greg Watermann

    wasn’t doing that well. As I started to come around and feel better, I saw a lot of people there with me that hadn’t started feeling better, yet. I felt so much compassion for them because I had just been through the same thing. So, I was kinda, in part, thinking, ‘I swear to God, it gets better, guys! Just hang on in there! No matter how bad or dark or scary it gets, it always gets better! It’s so worth holding on because it just gets better.’ I think that’s where that came from.”

    When I told Beth that I thought that God’s hand was on her when she wrote that song, she said:

    “Thank you. I’d like to think that because I really feel like it’s such a spiritual experience writing. It’s such a healing and wonderful experience. I’ve always felt like God and the angels kinda help me out there, you know? Kinda show me the way. I need to believe that, you know?”

    Realizing that artists don’t like to pick a favorite song from their albums because it’s like picking a favorite child, I asked Ms. Hart which song she would point people to as a calling card for “Better Than Home”.

    “It would be, ‘Tell Her You Belong To Me’.  It was by far the most challenging. It took the longest time to write it. I didn’t know what it was about in the beginning of writing it even though I had lyrics and I had all of the melody. I had all the music done first, which is what I usually do, anyway. But, I had a lot of lyrics and I couldn’t figure out what were the right lyrics. I pondered over it a couple of years. Then, finally, I realized why I was struggling with the lyric because I finally realized who it was about. It was about my dad. That’s why I was afraid to talk about those feelings. Once I figured out what it was about, then I said, ‘Okay, now let’s get this song done!’ I just love it. I love this song so much! I dedicate the album to my dad. I never dedicated a record to my dad before.”

    The title song is truly soul stirring. Beth shared with me the story behind it and how it impacted fans.

    “I’m close with a few of my fans and, when I say that, I mean that they’ve become really good friends of mine and they’re usually people who deal with similar things from difficulty in childhood or mental difficulties. So, yeah, they’re always a part because I know they’re my sounding board. I get to talk to them and say, ‘Hey, this is how I’m feeling,’ and they say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been going through the same thing, lately! This is what I’m doing to get better and this is what I’m doing that’s making me feel better.’ It’s a fantastic thing – especially when I’m writing a song about that. 

    Photo by Greg Watermann

    “For me, ‘Better Than Home’ came from a childhood place of having dreams about things being better; things being different; me taking a different course in my life; the way that I looked at myself and the way that I looked at my own family and the way that I looked at life and creating a new family. I like to think that having a band and, then, also getting married and my manager, David, is like my father. He’s like a father figure to me. I like at that as my new family that I created later in life. 

    “But it’s really standing before God and what I see as spiritual healing and something that looks over me and guiding me and having the courage to say, ‘This is what I want for my life.’ I think it’s hard when you have such low self esteem to say, ‘This is what I really want for my life’ because you feel like you don’t deserve it.

    “So, ‘Better Than Home’ is getting to that place where you realize, despite my insecurities, despite my warped thinking, I absolutely deserve to have everything that I’ve ever wanted: love and health and being able to be responsible for myself and letting go of feeling sorry for myself. All those kinds of things. Music and experiencing life like when you wake up and you go outside and you’re, like, ‘Wow! I’m alive! I’m really lucky and I’m really thankful!’ Those kinds of things. 

    “What I did, though, when I wrote it, was I made it about the road so, that way, I wouldn’t have to explain that personal thing that I add to the song but I could use the road as an example. What the road means to me is just getting out of your house. It doesn’t necessarily have to be singing and doing a show. It just means getting out of where you’re hiding from and experiencing life again. And THAT is better than home – better than hiding.”

    I discovered Beth Hart from her first duet album with guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. She’s also worked with the legendary Jeff Beck and others. A Boomerocity reader who knew I was going to be chatting with Beth wanted to know whom else she would like to work with sometime.

    “You know? I would really, really love to do something with Tom Waits. I don’t know him and I’m sure he doesn’t know who the frick I am but I adore him! I adore his writing. I adore his whole vibe. He is so vulnerable and, then, the next minute he’s absolutely hysterical. He’s got such a broad sense of being able to find art in every form of emotion and the way he does it is so brilliant. I would love to even be a fly on the wall in his room when he’s working. That would be amazing. It’s always been him. Whenever I get that question, I always say Tom Waits.”

    In my interview with Joe Bonamassa last month, I told him that I was going to be chatting with Beth and asked him for a comment about her, to which he said, “I think Beth Hart is probably the most naturally talented singer and musician that I’ve ever been on stage with. She has such a wonderful sense of timing and phasing, vocally, and has an infinite capability, vocally. She commands attention. There’s some people who can really sing. They stand up there and sing. She stomps up there and she takes control of the stage. You can’t teach that kind of stage power and that presence. She’s a very, very, very special individual and I’m very proud of the records that I’ve made with her.”

    When I shared those comments with Ms. Hart, her response was bubbly and from deep within her heart.

    “Oh, my god! That is so amazing! Oh, my god! I love him! He’s so sweet! This is how I feel about Joe: I think that Joe is one of the most extraordinary people

         

    Photo by Greg Watermann

    because, like Jeff Beck, he really works at his craft. He doesn’t just assume that he has all this talent and that’s all he needs. He works at it. He’s on the road. He’s practicing at home. He’s making records. He’s writing songs. He’s covering songs in a brilliant way. And he’s got a HUGE vocabulary. 

    “I think it’s, obviously, a great talent there, but it’s like Jeff. Jeff’s got a great talent but he works his ass off at it. He doesn’t take it for granted in any way. He’s striving to always learn and takes on new challenges. I mean, you can see what he’s done with his career. He’s someone who’s never had Pop success; tons of radio play Pop stations and look at his career! It’s phenomenal and it’s because he works at it. He puts it out there. He never takes it for granted. That’s something that really inspired me when I met him was that I saw his work ethic and his total commitment – not only being an artist but really being someone that gets out there and works the shit out of it. That inspired me so much!

    “Also, he’s incredibly humble and the easiest person to work with. He really inspires the people around him by allowing them to be themselves and showing them that respect and that love. He focuses on his side of the street. I think what that does is you work with people and you let them see that they’re there because you believe in them and you love them and you’re focusing on your thing and you know that they’re going to focus on their thing. And, when you bring it together, it makes it this amazing chemistry. You get the best out of people. That’s another thing I really saw from him and made it a conscious effort to do that in my life, as well. I love his flavors and his styles on things. 

    “Obviously, as a player and as a singer - love him as a singer! I love his voice. I love how he doesn’t push and do that whole showboating bullshit thing. He really has faith in the material and he allows those songs to be played and to be sung for the sake of the song instead of for the sake of showboating and showboating is bullshit. We know that, you know? That only goes so far. After three or four songs, you’re done. You’ve seen the showboating. It’s over. With him, you don’t get that. You can watch him for two hours and it’s always special and it’s always something that is humble and comes from a real place of love for music instead of having to show you how amazing he is. His amazement is in how respects the music and at it from that place.”

    In addition to what she had shared earlier, Beth shared what else is on her radar for the next year.

    Photo by Greg Watermann

         

    “Well, you know, what I decided is doing nine months on the road a year is just too much. It’s getting in the way of my relationships with family, with friends, with being able to be a wife to my husband, and it’s getting in the way of writing. Even thought I work with my husband on the road, it’s still all about the Beth Hart Show. At home, I want to be able to cook for him and go to the beach and ride bikes with him. 

    “I was telling this to my manager recently. I was saying as a writer, I’m not going to write about airplanes and hotels. Who gives a shit about that? I gotta write about real life and in order to write about real life, I have to be connected to real life. 

    “So, I think what’s on the focus for me is, like, seven months out of the year on the road, living a real life and being able to write from that place. Being really healthy. Really balanced. I’m forty-three, now. This is the time where you’ve really got to take care of yourself if you want to live to be old and I want to live to be old! I want to have a long life. I want to be able to be there to take care of my husband when he gets really old the way he’s taken such amazing care of me through all my difficulties. So, I’m kinda reprioritizing things and I think it’s a good thing! I feel really good about that.”

    If Beth’s future is as full of life as she sounded during our call, then, happily, we should be hearing from this beautiful and amazingly talented woman for many years to come . . . and that’s a wonderful thing.

  • Black Country Communion 2

    Black Country Communion 2
    By: Black Country Communion
    Label: J&R Adventures
    Reviewed: January, 2012

    Black Country Communion 2 is the second cannon ball to come out of the powerful artillery known as Black Country Communion – and what a powerful blast of an album it is.  One never knows exactly what stereophonic delights will come out this band but you do know that it’s going to be incredibly good.  BCC2 solidifies that repution.

    The songwriting is as crisp and tight as the musicianship of each and every member of this band.  Produced by Kevin Shirley (as was the first BCC album as well as other Bonamassa projects and other great artists), BCC2 showcases a super band that shows that it’s comfortable in its own skin. 

    Glenn Hughes’ voice and bass work is as good as, if not better than, ever.  Why this guy isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t know but he should be.  Joe Bonamassa’s axe work is par excellence.  The always intricate and intriguing keyboard wizardry of Derek Sherinian is at a whole knew level.  Jason Bonham once again demonstrates that his drumming is worthy of its own accolades instead of relying on DNA-based praise.  He’s definitely his own talented musician.

    Comments on a few cuts of the album:

    The Outsider: This first tune will wrap you up tightly in a musical cocoon that keeps the listener in place for the rest of the album.  Fast, tight and intricate, the song leaves you exhausted at the end but there are ten more songs to go.

    Man In The Middle melodically brings to mind Alice Cooper’s Lost In America with Hughes’ signature funk mixed in for good measure while Faithless has a funky Kasmir-esque vibe to it.

    As always, if a favorite had to be picked from this album, the Boomerocity favorite would have to be the incredibly bluesy Little Secret.  This tasty little tune resulted in me flogging the repeat button countless times.

    One may be tempted to say that BCC2 is an album that Led Zeppelin would’ve made if they were still together.  Perhaps.  However, I prefer to think of it as another landmark album by an incredible band that I hope is around for a very long time while leaving plenty of room for Zeppelin to come back on the scene.

  • Derek Sherinian

    Posted September, 2011

    As a teenager growing up in Phoenix in the seventies, it seemed that music was alive everywhere and boundaries were being both explored and exploited.  Rock and roll was no longer relegated to three or four piece bands that were made up of a drummer, bass player and one or two guitar players and/or a vocalist.

    Keyboards – and by that I mean the new fangled synthesizers that were sweeping the entertainment industry – were beginning to make their presence known in the music business and on our stereos.  Keyboard-heavy bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, and Deep Purple commanded our attention and filled our ears with incredible, intricate sounds that seemed to permeate every cell of our mushy brains.  The keyboard wizardry of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and Jon Lord, respectively, took the tickling of the ivories to a whole new, mind blowing level.

    In the new millennia, an artist who has the same kind of keyboard genius pulsing through his veins and is of the same superior level of talent and creativity is one Derek Sherinian.  Beginning his affair with the piano at the age of five and, after three semesters of attending the Berklee School of Music on a scholarship, Derek found himself playing the keys with the legendary Buddy Miles, learning the ways of the road and sharpening his performance skills.

    Sherinian then went on to work with the likes of Alice Cooper (who called him “the Caligula of the Keyboards”), KISS, Yngwie Malmsteen and Dream Theater.  He’s currently the keyboard maestro for the super group, Black Country Communion (with guitar great, Joe Bonamassa, bassist, Glenn Hughes, and Jason Bonham on drums) as well as for Billy Idol.

    When he wasn’t working with these rock power houses, he produced an incredible body of solo work over the years with albums such as his first release in 1999, Planet X, which was followed by Inertia two years later.  In 2003, he released Black Utopia and Mythology the following year.  Between then and now, he produced Blood of the Snake  and Molecular Heinosity.  These albums still stand very well on their own and are a definite must for the discriminating listener who loves exceptional music.

    On the 27th of this month, Derek releases Oceana and it is his best work yet.  Co-written with his good friend and drummer, Simon Phillips, the project also enjoys some great musical muscle from friends like Joe Bonamassa, Steve Lukather, Tony MacAlpine, Tony Franklin, Steve Stevens, Doug Aldrich and Jimmy Johnson.

    I got to chat about Oceana with Sherinian recently.  Despite the fact that he was enduring a gauntlet of interviews, Derek didn’t act at all tired from the grueling chat-fest schedule. In fact, he sounded enthusiastic to be talking about his new album.

    I started off the interview by asking Derek how he would describe Oceana to any of his fans or fans of the various bands and artists he has worked with, or are currently working with.

    “I think Oceana is the most melodic and the most grooving of my solo records – and the most focused. I’ve always been very adventurous with the genres and styles of my past records. I’d say that Oceana has the most emphasis on the strong melodies. It’s less heavy metal and less progressive than its predecessors. I really think it’s my best work to date. I know that’s a cliché that artists will say but Simon Phillips and I really but a lot of time and care into the composition, the playing, the production and the choice of players.  We’re very happy with the outcome. The record’s getting rave reviews all around the world so we’re very excited about it.”

    I asked Sherinian if he and Simon wrote all the parts for the various artists to play who appeared on Oceana or did they listen to the song and come up with their own magic, he said, “Well, all the songs that I wrote with Simon where it was just the two of us, we brought Steve Lukather in to play guitar because we always hear his guitar – it’s just always there in our minds. He always comes in and exceeds our expectations.

    “Then, the other songs where I co-wrote – I did two songs with Steve Stevens  where we came up with the stuff and then put everyone else behind what we wrote.  One song I wrote with Joe Bonamassa and the other with Doug Aldrich – it basically works out that, if I write with a guitar player, that’s who winds up playing on the record.

    In this day and age where albums are often made by way of e-mailing tracks back and forth between artists who then add their track in at a studio more convenient to them, I asked Derek if there was much in the way of face time in the studio with the other artists or were they e-mailing tracks back and forth?

    “Oh, no, there was no e-mailing.  Everyone came into Simon’s studio – all the guitar players and we tracked everyone. It was great! The cool thing about living in Los Angeles is that you have the best musicians in the world within a five mile radius from my house. They’re all here.

     “The album took four and half months from the first day of writing to the mastering. It usually takes three to six months depending on everyone’s schedule because everyone’s busy in their own band or making their own records. It’s a challenge to coordinate and schedule everyone to come in.”

    I figured the toughest part of making an album would be sweating over the finer points of engineering the album, finding a producer one could trust or work well with, or trying to nail down the precise sound one was looking for.  When I asked Sherinian what he thought the toughest part of producing an album was, his answer surprised me.

    “The toughest part is coming up with names for these instrumental songs with no lyrics and then naming the album. That really is the toughest part. That really is the hardest part and the biggest struggle.”

    Musical geniuses all derive inspiration for their music in endless ways.  Derek said that, “I get inspired by whoever I’m collaborating with. I do write some songs by myself but I get much more enjoyment by going into a room with nothing with someone else and then yanking something from nothing and watching it evolve – the feedback, the back and forth. That, to me, is exciting and I get inspired by working with people that I really respect.”

    I followed up that question by asking if he has a particular person or audience in mind as he crafts his music.

    “I don’t know. I all just comes down to just closing your mind off and letting your hands move and let your ears rule what’s going on. It all just works out how it’s supposed to.”

    I found it interesting that Sherinian co-wrote Oceana with a drummer (Simon Phillips) instead of, say, a guitar player.  I asked him why that was.

    “Well, Simon and I first started working together on my Inertia record in 2001. For one thing, Simon is my favorite drummer. I love his choice of beats and groove.  But he’s also very melodic. He’s very capable of going on a keyboard and writing and comes up with great ideas. We just have a connection when we write – a chemistry and it always flows very nicely and we always come up with great stuff together.”

    As mentioned earlier, the “Caligula of the keyboards” has worked with some great people throughout your career.  When I asked Sherinian who he hasn’t worked with but hasn’t yet, his answer appeared to be very much at the forefront of his mind.

    “I haven’t worked with Jeff Beck yet. He’s on my list and it’s going to happen at some time. I don’t know when but it’s destined to happen. That’s on my bucket list. I’d like to play on his record or, more, I’d him playing on my record with me and Simon writing and playing – or tour with him – in any capacity would be great. But I think that would be the best if he agreed to play on one of my records and have Simon co-write and produce.

    “It would also be great to get Edward Van Halen to come in play on one of my solo records. I got a chance to play with him live in 2006 at a private party. That was very cool but it would be nice to write a killer instrumental with him and have him come in and track it.”

    With someone who is as intricate in their playing guitar as he is on keyboard, I asked if creating music with a Lukather, Stevens or Bonamassa proved to be more challenging or more synergistic.

    “It doesn’t matter. I’ll go in and do something with someone like Tony MacAlpine, who has amazing chops. I just blend. I’m very chameleonic but at the same time I keep my signature sound with whoever I’m playing with. So, it doesn’t matter.”

    As for tour plans in support of Oceana, Derek shared that, “there’s talk of us doing some stuff in Europe next year. We’re trying to put that all together. Just stay tuned to my website, DerekSherinian.com for updates on that.”

    Sherinians said that, as for plans for the next year, five years, beyond, “I know that next year I’m going to do some more stuff with Black Country Communion – another record.  At the end of this month I start rehearsing with Billy Idol. We’re going to do a short run.  Beyond that, it’s just broad strokes. I just try to stay musical and creative and surround myself with the best players in the world and keep moving forward.

    “I would love to get to a place where I sell enough records that I can go tour my solo stuff around the world so that I don’t have to do anything else. That would be an awesome place to be, career-wise, and I’m not there yet.  That’s what I’m working on.”

    As our call was wrapping up, my final question to the keyboard genius was the one I often ask at the close of an interview these days: How do you want to be remembered and what would you like to have accomplished when you’ve gone to the great keyboard in the sky?

    “I want to be remembered as one of the greats and I want to be known that influenced a whole legion of young – not just keyboard players but musicians. I want to be known as someone that was the architect of metal fusion through my albums, my legacy of who I’ve played with. I just want to leave a mark.”

    No doubt, Derek Sherinian will be around for a very long time and will build just such a legacy.  You can pre-order/order Oceana or Derek’s other great solo work by clicking on the icons on the right side of this page.  Every serious rock music library should have these albums.
    Also, as he mentioned, you can keep up with his solo tour schedule as well as with Black Country Communion, Billy Idol and others buy visiting www.dereksherinian.com.

  • Different Shades Of Blue

    Different Shades of Blue
    Joe Bonamassa
    Label: J&R Enterprises
    Release Date: September 23, 2014
    Review Date: September 21, 2014

    The short version of this review (as with the past reviews of Bonamassa projects): Love it/Buy it.

    Now, for the meat and potatoes of this disc.

    “Different Shades of Blue” is Joe Bonamassa’s first studio in two years. Not only that, it’s his first ever offering of all original music and, boy, has he ever done a phenomenal job. Bonamassa says of the effort, “It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in the writing on an entire album. So I decided I wanted to make a completely original blues album. I’ve really had to push myself to make everything I do better than the last project. I know the fans expect it. And I feel like I owe it to the fans to give them an original record after all these years.”

    The music making monster didn’t release any new studio projects in order to work with some great Nashville area songwriter – greats like Journey’s Jonathan Cain, Jerry Flowers (Keith Urban, Lady A, Carrie Underwood) and James House (Martina McBride, Diamond Rio and Dwight Yoakam).

    “The writers really inspired me, and having access to really great lyricists and songwriters made it such a great experience,” said Bonamassa.

     As was the case of Joe’s last fifteen albums (if you include his work with the incredibly talented Beth Hart and his Black Country Communion work), Kevin Shirley did a brilliant job producing “Different Shades Of Blue”.  Shirley said of the album, “It’s definitely my favorite Joe Bonamassa record to date.”
    Boomerocity has to agree.

    The eleven cut album opens with the only deviation from all original material: A tip of the six-string hat by playing an amazing eighty second treatment of Hendrix’s “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” as a brilliant entre into “Oh Beautiful!,” (THE Boomerocity favorite) written by Bonamassa and  James House (Martina McBride, Diamond Rio, Dwight Yoakum). Joe’s playing sounding as if the hounds of hell are nipping at his heels and the dust from the crossroads whirling around him. From there, the listener better hold on to their hat.

    The second Boomerocity favorite is “Never Give All Your Heart” (co-written with Jonathan Cain). With flavors of Bad Company (and reminiscent of Joe’s “Driving Toward Daylight) and screaming guitar work by Joe, this tune also earned uncountable slaps of the repeat button.

    The third Boomerocity favorite is the one song solely written by Bonamassa: “So What Would I Do.” This soulful love song explores the complex and often painful aspects of a relationship between an often absent man and his lady. Joe’s riffs ooze loneliness and frustration, giving the listener just an inkling of what it’s like to be in his. Reese Wynans’ tickling of the ivories sounded so much like Chuck Leavell that I had to look to make sure I hadn’t missed his mention in the album notes.

    Each and every cut of “Different Shades Of Blue” is worth the price of the whole disc. Bonamassa fans will, of course, buy it because they know that they won’t be disappointed. They’ll also point to it as a great introduction of him to their friends, making new fans out of them.

    Keep up with the latest in Joe Bonamassa’s world and see if he’s coming to your town by signing up to his newletter at JBonamassa.com.

  • Don't Explain

    dontexplaincoverDon’t Explain
    Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa
    Label: J&R Adventures, LLC
    Reviewed: October, 2011

    If I was some sort of quirky scientist fooling around with cloning experiments, I would likely be the type who would mix up various peoples’ DNA to see what I could come up with. However, I’m not (I don’t even play one on TV) but I think someone else is.

    Why, you ask?

    Because I think someone has cloned Janis Joplin, Bonnie Bramlett, Melissa Etheridge and Amy Winehouse into one person and named her “Beth Hart”. I know that I’ve definitely heard her music over the years – I just didn’t know who it was singing. Yeah, I am embarrassed to say that I’ve only now “discovered” her via her collaboration with Joe Bonamassa on their CD, Don’t Explain.

    See, being a Bonamassa fan pays more dividends than just hearing his great music.

    As I said in my review of Joe’s album, Dust Bowl, I learned my lesson about trying to catch a hot CD while it was in-stock in the stores. When I saw this collaboration announced online, I pre-ordered it so that I could be sure to have it while the ink was still drying on the CD cover. Am I ever glad I did.

    I was privileged to indulge myself – uninterrupted - in the great sounds from Don’t Explain during a recent round-trip to California. The album starts out with an incredible cover of the 1957 Ray Charles number, Sinner’s Prayer. Wow! Hart’s interpretation of the tune makes me want to run to the nearest alter every time I hear it. The only negative I can say about this is that the world has definitely been robbed since a duet with Mr. Charles and Ms. Hart singing this song will never happen. Can you imagine what that would be like? Needless to say, Sinner’s Prayer is one of several Boomerocity favorites on this album.

    Another favorite is the treatment of the Bill Withers 1973 tune, For My Friend. While the Withers tune still stands the test of time over the close-to-40 years, I suspect that Beth’s version is one that will also be talked about 40 years from now, it’s that good.

    One tune that should put Hart/Bonamassa into the history books (and is yet another Boomerocity favorite) is their incredible cover of the Etta James song, I’d Rather Go Blind. I have worn this song out. Actually, I’ve worn out the repeat button on my iPod. Rounding out the Boomerocity fave list is their rendition of the Delaney and Bonnie hit, Well Well. I usually don’t take too kindly to folks messin’ with my D&B but, after listening to this cover about a bijillion times, I had to grant special dispensation – ‘specially since both Joe and Beth flawlessly channel the Bramlett’s in their performance.

    While these tunes represent my favorites, let me be clear: The entire album is great. I would go as far as to say that it’s a must-have for lovers of blues, jazz and good ol’ classic rock. It would be a great, early Christmas gift to yourself and for the music lover in your life.

  • Dust Bowl

    dustbowlcoverDust Bowl
    Joe Bonamassa
    Label: Premier Artists
    Reviewed: October, 2011

    I’m such a huge Joe Bonamassa fan that, if I was sitting where you are now, I’d already be out the door, looking for his album, “Dust Bowl”. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. And, you know what? No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find the darn thing!

    After several months, I broke down and ordered it online which is what I should have done from the git-go. Silly me.

    I feel especially silly after I received it and have listened to it ‘bout a bijillion times because it’s that good! And to think that I missed out on six months of intense musical pleasure.

    I’ve learned my lesson and have order his brand spanking new CD, Don’t Explain, recorded with Beth Hart. Stay tuned for that more timely review.

    But I digress.

    Better late than never, I’ve enjoyed listening to Dust Bowl and have it firmly burned into my DNA. The album is chock-full of incredible musical wizardry – not only by Joe but a boat load of incredible artist like Carmine Rojas and Rick Melick, guest musicians Anton Fig, John Haitt, Vince Gill, Michael Rhodes (reknown Nashville session bassist), Chad Cromwell (drumming credits include Peter Frampton, Neil Young and Mark Knopfler), Steve Nathan (acclaimed Nashville based session keyboardist), Tony Cedras, Glenn Hughes, Arlan Schierbaum, Blondie Chaplin, Beth Hart, and Reese Wynans. Heck, he even brought in the guy who makes his amps, Peter Van Weelden, to lend his voice to the title cut.

    Dust Bowl starts out with low down and dirty, Slow Train, that Joe co-wrote with the album’s producer, Kevin Shirley. The smokin’ hot solos and a groove as deep as a cotton field row has made this tune a crowd favorite. While every tune on this album has earned multiple hits on the repeat button, Slow Train has probably edged out the rest as getting the most such hits.

    The title cut is chock full of riffs and beats that destine this tune for use in movies, advertisements and bumper music. In its own funky way, it kind of reminds me of the Stones’ Anyone Seen My Baby. Following Dust Bowl is Tennessee Plates features the unmistakable vocals of John Haitt and signature guitar work by Vince Gill. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this cut is getting significant rotation on country stations around the country. If it isn’t, it should. Heck, it deserves a funky video for play on GAC and CMT, it’s that good!

    The Meaning of the Blues again offers up some incredible solos by Joe that easily allows the listener to envision Bonamassa kickin’ it out on stage and leaving the audience pleasantly exhausted when it’s all said and done. Homage is paid to the coal miners of the world with Black Lung Heartache and is played against a dark and heavy musical backdrop befitting of them song’s message.

    The Last Matador of Bayonne emits a whole range of emotions from both player and listener alike and is, by far, one of the Boomerocity’s 12 favorites from this album (you didn’t expect me to actually pick a favorite, did you?). No Love On The Street is a Michael Kamen/Tim Curry tune that features rhythm guitar work by Blondie Chapman. The vocal assistance by Beth Hart was, no doubt, a precursor to Joe’s new collaborative release, Don’t Explain, with Ms. Hart. If this tune is any indication of what that album contains then I can’t wait to hear it!

    If you’re like me and are late to the Dust Bowl party, then I suggest you get off your musical butt and buy the darn thing because it’s going to give Bonnamassa (as well as blues) fans countless hours of listening enjoyment.

  • Glenn Hughes: the Autobiography: From Deep Purple to Black Country Communion

    glennhughescoverGlenn Hughes: the Autobiography: From Deep Purple to Black Country Communion
    By: Joel McIver and Glenn Hughes
    Publisher: Jawbone Press
    Reviewed: January, 2012

    If you mention the band, Deep Purple, to any baby boomer, you will likely hear instant mouth-generated riffs of some of their huge hits like Hush, Smoke On The Water, Space Truckin’, Burn and many, many more.

    One of the most flamboyant and remarkable members of the band was bass player, Glenn Hughes, who joined the band in 1973, making up what is referred to as the “Mark III” and “Mark IV” band line-ups. To be sure, Hughes made his first mark with his band, Trapeze, but his first huge success happened when he joined Deep Purple. Hughes went on to work with many great artists and bands, as well as doing his own solo work, and is currently thumpin’ the bass with the super group, Black Country Communion.

    After over forty years in the music business, it was high time that Hughes came out with a book to tell his story up to this point. He does so (along with the excellent help and guidance of Joel McIver) with Glenn Hughes: the Autobiography: From Deep Purple to Black Country Communion.

    I don’t want to ruin any surprises in the book but I will say that Mr. Hughes is pretty darn lucky to be alive. I wasn’t surprised by the drug use. I was surprised by extent of his addictions and the distance of his fall.

    The book is chock full of entertaining stories from his days in Trapeze and Deep Purple as well as his work (or attempts at work) with greats like Tony Iommi, David Bowie and Gary Moore, to name but a few. Woven within those tales is the story of a severely addicted but incredibly talented artist. I found my stomach turning into knots as I read his many, many accounts of drug-addled living. The vast amounts of money spent and the great opportunities lost can neither be recaptured.

    That all said, Hughes tells his entire story, warts and all, from the vantage point of one who has finally come to grips with his disease and knows his life of sobriety is a rare second chance at life. It’s obvious that he’s now living life to its real fullest, with the love of life, Gabi, and the renewed passion he has for writing and making music. No, he can’t recover what he has lost in the areas of time and money but that only fuels the intensity to make every moment of every new day count. And, while I’m a huge fan of his work and love the stories behind the music, my biggest take-away is the insight Glenn Hughes provides by baring his soul regarding his disease and his sobriety.

    One interesting thing about this book besides the incredible stories: All the photos provided are in the front of the book instead of in the middle or scattered throughout. I’m not saying that it’s better or worse that way – just interesting.
    Glenn Hughes: the Autobiography isn’t just a must-have book for the rock music fan, it’s a must-have book for anyone who wrestles – no, make that “battles” – with addictive demons.

  • Groove Is King

         

    Groove Is King
    Rock Candy Funk Party
    Label: J&R Adventures
    Review Date: July 30, 2015

     

    “Groove Is King” is the second album by Rock Candy Funk Party – a little side band led by Joe Bonamassa drummer, Tal Bergman and also happens to include Bonamassa as well as Ron DeJesus on guitar and Mike Merritt on bass.

    A bit different from their debut CD, “Groove Is King” is a incredibly delightful and masterful blend of jazz, R&B, funk, electronica, and rock. A tighter, more “produced” CD, you can tell that the band has taken their sound to a whole new level. What can I say? It’s just a ton o’ fun to listen to!

    DeJesus said of the project, “This time around, the concept was less jazz and more modern dance with layered grooves. The rhythm section laid the foundation and then we’d add in strings, synths and an incredible horn section, all while keeping it funky.”

    Also new to this album are horn arrangements by Grammy-winning trumpeter Randy Brecker, and contributions from Daniel Sadownick (percussion), James Campagnola (saxophone), Ada Rovatti (saxophone), and Fred Kron (keys). Renato Neto, who played on RCFP’s debut album, joins the lineup again on keys while ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons lends his trademark growl to the album as the master of ceremonies aka “Mr. Funkadamus.” Together, these players weave into the mix heavier dance beats, rock, and pure unadulterated funk, citing influences such as Daft Punk, the Brecker Brothers, Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars, Massive Attack, Sade, Prince, and Led Zeppelin.

    These influences can be heard in many of the tracks, including the more rock-driven “Don’t Funk With Me” and “Uber Station,” a couple of tight, funky tunes punctuated with horns that recapture some of that classic Brecker Brothers sound, while “Low Tide” and “Groove Is King” feature a more stripped down, guitar-driven funk. “There was a definite intention of making tracks that are danceable,” said Merritt about “Don’t Be Stingy With The SMPTE,” “C You On The Flip Side,” and the EDM mash-up “The Fabulous Tales Of Two Bands,” which has traces of Prodigy’s 1997 hit “Firestarter.” “East Village” and “The 6 Train To The Bronx” both feature a cool, relaxed jazz feel while “Cube’s Brick” has a world music groove reminiscent of Weather Report; a funky yet ethereal treatment can be found on a re-imagining of Peter Gabriel’s “Digging In The Dirt.”

    If you love hearing fun, innovative, music by phenomenal musicians, then “Groove Is King” is the must-buy CD for you.

  • Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience - Knoxville, 2015

    Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

    Bijou Theater

    Knoxville, Tennessee

    May 5, 2015

     

         

    It’s been over seven years since the remaining members of Led Zeppelin assembled together for their historic performance at London’s O2 arena. At this time, it appears that a tour from the mates isn’t going to happen. 

    However, what we do get to enjoy is Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience which hit Knoxville on May 5th and what an experience it was!

    The band was greeted by a sell out, enthusiastic crowd at Knoxville’s Bijou Theater as they hit the stage playing “We’re Gonna Groove” and went on to blast through Zep favorites such as “Black Dog,” “I Can’t Quit You, Baby,” “Dazed and Confused,” and a bunch of others.

    The band did especially great covers of “Since I Been Loving You,” “Kashmir,” “When The Levee Breaks” and “Stairway To Heaven.” The crowd often sang along and didn’t seem to notice some of the technical difficulties that Bonham would comment about. 

    Guitarist, Tony Catania, was amazing in his treatment of the Zeppelin classics and James Dylan killed it on the vocals.

    A first for Boomerocity: Seeing a drummer actually break a brass cymbal. Yup, Jason did exactly that to which his drum tech quickly replaced while the band left to cheers for an encore. Yes, the band did encore with “Whole Lotta Love” and 

    Jason tours with LZE through the end of May. If you get a chance to get “Experienced,” do. You won’t regret it. 

  • Joe Bonamassa - Chattanooga, TN - 2014

    Joe Bonamassa In Concert
    Show Date: December 9, 2014
    Venue: Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Photo by http://www.jamespattersonsgallery.com

         

    Who says that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot?  For me, the lightning of a Joe Bonamassa concert struck me twice this year. The first time taking place back in April in Lexington, Kentucky, and the second time was the night of December 9th at the Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    That Bonamassa bolt of musical lightning put on an absolutely amazing show.
    Starting precisely at eight o’clock, Bonamassa and his band delighted the enthusiastic tri-state crowd with an eight song acoustic set. With a stompin’ rendition of “Dust Bowl,” Joe glided into “Jelly Roll,” “Different Shades of Blue” (from his new CD of the same name), “Black Lung Heartache,” “Happier Times,” “Jockey Full of Bourbon,” “Dislocated Boy,” and “Athens to Athens.” 

    Each and every song was brilliantly performed. The band was tight as tight can be. Joe’s riffs were precise and flawless. While I absolutely love Joe’s electric part of his shows, I could’ve also listened to the acoustic version all night long.

    After precisely fifteen minutes of intermission time, Joe and the band hit the stage performing the first to cuts from “Different Shades of Blue,” (“Hey Baby” and “Oh Beautiful”) before seguing into “Hidden Charms.”

    Joe then invited fellow blues man, J. D. Simo to the stage to play along on “Double Trouble” and “Gave Up Everything For You.”  All I can say is, “Wow! Wow! Wow!”  These guys tore it up!  Thank you, Joe, for turning me on to Simo!

    Bonamassa closed the show out with “Love Ain’t A Love Song,” “Sloe Gin,” and “Ballad of John Henry” with the encore being, “Django” and “Mountain Time” (a personal favorite of mine).

    If you haven’t ever seen Joe Bonamassa live in concert, you’re really missing out on an incredible treat. Check out his DVD’s or look him up on YouTube. He’s definitely on my short list of all time favorites.

  • Joe Bonamassa - Knoxville, TN - 2015

    Joe Bonamassa In Concert

    Show Date: November 14, 2015

    Venue: Knoxville, Tennessee, Civic Auditorium and Coliseum

     

    Photo by Randy Patterson

         

    Long-time Boomerocity readers know that Boomerocity is a HUGE fan of Joe Bonamassa and have been following him for years. So, it should come as absolutely no surprise to you that our opinion of last night’s show at Knoxville’s Civic Auditorium is that it was, once again, fan-freakin’-tastic!

    The precisely two hour long show was full of fan favorites as well as reaching deep into his broad and rich catalog of tunes from the entire span of his career.  These included JB standards like Sloe Gin to newer releases like Oh Beautiful and all sorts of musical gems in between.

    One thing I’d like to point out, however, is how Joe treats is fans. I had the privilege of being part of a “meet and greet” prior to the show. There were approximately 30 – 35 of us gathered to meet the man. I listened as he personally and individually greeted each of us as we waited our turn to chat with him and have our picture taken with him.

    He was gracious and talkative to everyone one of us who were there to meet him. The function was superbly organized and allowed Joe the opportunity to chat with each of us as we met him. Never once did I see him act like he was annoyed to meet with his fans or sign autographs for us. Bonamassa is a class act all the way.

    If you’ve never seen Joe Bonamassa in concert, you’re really missing out on one of the best shows you’re likely to ever see. Check out JoeBonamassa.com to see when he’ll be performing in a town near you.

  • Joe Bonamassa In Concert - Lexington, Kentucky

    Joe Bonamassa In Concert
    Show Date: April 25, 2014
    Venue: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky

    Photo by Randy Patterson

    Regular readers of Boomerocity are well aware that I am a dedicated, die-hard Joe Bonamassa fan.  So, as I’ve said in past concert, CD and DVD reviews, it will come as absolutely no surprise that I will rave about JB’s show at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

    The show started precisely on time (as is typical with Bonamassa) and with what has become a regular feature at Bonamassa concerts: an amazing eight song acoustic set that started with Palm Trees. After each song, Joe would switch (in sequential order) to the next of eight guitars in a semi-circle behind him.
     
    As the band joined him, I immediately noticed that the keyboard player wasn’t Joe’s usual Rick Melick.  It was some bearded dude and I wandered if Joe reached into the disbanded Black Country Communion and pulled Derek Sherinian into commission (and whom I’ve had the privilege of interviewing). Imagine my pleasant surprise to hear his name called out when Joe introduced the acoustic band. Along with Derek was Lenny Castro, Mats Wester and Gerry O’Conner.

    Back to the acoustic set.

    By far my most favorite tunes from the acoustic set were Happier Times (complete with Sherinian’s brief journey into some No Quarter), Dislocated Boy (probably the best tune from the set) and Ball Peen Hammer.

    There was a fifteen minute intermission after the set during which time a spotted some empty seats a tad closer to the stage and I nonchalantly availed myself to one of them.

    The “electric” set began with the stompin’ Dust Bowl and was joined by regular drummer, Tal Bergman and bassist, Carmine Rojas, with Sherinian and Castro sticking around to round out the group.  The band blasted on from there with such staples and crowd favorites as Slow Train, Sloe Gin, and John Henry, among others.  The rock rolled and the blues was played as if Bonamassa was chased by the hounds of Hell.  At the end, the crowd roared for more and Joe obliged with a moving delivery of Django/Mountain Time.

    If you’ve never attended a Bonamassa concert, you’re missing out on a real treat and some of the best guitar work you’ll ever hear. Joe’s a consummate profession who over delivers to his fans. In the case of the Lexington, he delivered two and a half hours of phenomenal performances of great, memorable music.

  • Joe Bonamassa Live At Radio City Music Hall

         

    Joe Bonamassa Live At Radio City Music Hall
    Joe Bonamassa
    Label: J&R Adventures
    Release Date: October 2, 2015
    Review Date: October 4, 2015

     

    I’ve said it before and I’m saying it yet, again:  

    The short version of this review (as with the past reviews of Bonamassa projects): Love it/Buy it.

    The latest live offering by the guitar virtuoso is a delightful collection of songs that clock in at around seventy-five minutes. It features nine previously unreleased tracks and two just recorded songs.

    That’s just on the CD. 

    There’s also a DVD that’s part of the package and it features over three hours of great stuff, including two and a half hours of live performance culled from his two sold out shows at the RCMH, and some great behind the scenes bonus footage that includes his mom and dad giving Joe two cherished family heirlooms (sorry, you’ll need to get your own copy of this to find out what that is) and a little tour of his childhood home.  This is all capped off with a 40-page booklet that is chock full of pictures and info. 

    The performances reflect a good chunk of what people were privileged to see during Bonamassa’s tour wherein the first half was an acoustic set and the second half featured his renowned prowess on the electric guitar.

    Interestingly, the CD does not totally mirror the set list on the DVD. There are just enough differences between the two to make it interesting.

    Needless to say, Boomerocity proudly has this package added to our listening/viewing library and believe that you really should, too.

    Yeah, it’s that good. 

  • Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks

         

    Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks
    Joe Bonamassa
    Label: J&R Adventures
    Release Date: March 24, 2015
    Review Date: March 22, 2015

     

    Love it/buy it.

    As in previous reviews of past Bonamassa projects, that’s my review in nut shell.

    For the rest of you, “Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks,” is the latest – and much anticipated – album from Joe Bonamassa. Recorded live on CD and DVD in front of 9,000 enthusiastic fans, this exclusive concert pays tribute to blues legends Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf against the backdrop of the famed Red Rocks Amphitheater.

    Bonamassa gives fans over two and a half hours of some of the best blues you’ll ever hear. If you pick up the DVD, you’ll get an additional one and a half hours of bonus features including behind the scenes peeks, historic clips of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, a impressive photo gallery and a very cool featurette of Joe and his producer, Kevin Shirley, visiting the fabled Crossroads.

    Always full of delightfully creative surprises, this album is the first of a planned series of tribute concerts that will feature a different band and body of work that will a marked difference from Joe’s own catalog.

    Behind Joe for this performance was Kirk Fletcher on guitar, the legendary Anton Fig on drums, Michael Rhodes on bass, Reese Wynans on keys, Mike Henderson on harmonica, and Lee Thornburg, Ron Dziuba, and Nick Lane on horns. Tight and precise, the team sounded as though they had played the same set every night for years. Each and every song performed is an audio/visual delight. Observing the crowd while watching the DVD, it’s obvious that they felt the same way.  

    Honestly, though, while I, obviously, love the musical performance, my most favorite part of the whole package is the segment detailing Joe and Kevin Shirley visiting the Delta Blues Museum and the mythical (but very real) crossroads in Clarksdale and (more importantly) Rosedale, Mississippi. You will hear Joe’s personal musical story and his love for the blues. It’s a fascinating glimpse both into the beginning of the blues as well as into Bonamassa’s passion and commitment for the genre. Eavesdropping on Joe and Kevin talking about everything under the sun while driving is the closest thing I’ll ever come to being a fly on the proverbial wall, listening to these guys chat. What a treat!

    By the way, it’s interesting that Joe and Robert Johnson share the same birthday (different years, of course): May 8th.

    Speaking of that commitment, the concert at Red Rocks was presented by Joe’s “Keeping The Blues Alive” (KTBA) – a foundation he founded to promote the heritage of the blues to future generations as well as fund scholarships, and supplement music education funding for public schools that have loss such funding. That particular show raised over $40,000 for this effort.

    Order this package below and, if you feel so inclined, make a donation to Keeping The Blues Alive (here).

     

  • Oceana

    oceanacoverOceana
    Derek Sherinian
    Label: Mascot Records
    Reviewed: September, 2011

    LISTENER BEWARE! Upon commencement of playing Derek Sherinian’s Oceana, one will be diluged with a symphony of progressive metal fusion the likes of which haven’t been heard in quite a long time.

    Oceana is the seventh solo effort by keyboard genius, Derek Sherinian and, honestly, it is his best album yet – and I didn’t think that it would ever be possible. “The Caligula of the Keyboards” (as labeled by Alice Cooper) brought in some of the best and brightest of his vast musical circle of friends to put together this incredible collection of music. Friends like Simon Phillips, Joe Bonamass, Steve Stevens, Steve Lukather, Tony MacAlpine, Doug Aldrich, Tony Franklin (Roy Harper, The Firm, Jimmy Page, among others) and Jimmy Johnson (James Taylor, Allan Holdsworth, Lee Ritenour) bring their remarkable talents to the project to come up with a sound that is like no other.

    The album bombards the listeners eardrums with the intricately tight Five Elements and drags you along for a fun-filled musical journey that guarantees that you’ll have this disc on “repeat” for days to come. I’m hard-pressed to identify a favorite because I love all the tunes on this disc so I’ll narrow it down to three . . . for now.

    El Camino Diablo is a struttin’ tune that Sherinian and Phillips co-wrote with Doug Aldrich. The guitar work is phenomenal and tight. Put this tune on while you’re driving and I dare you to stay within the speed limit.

    I Heard That was co-written with Derek’s Black Country Communion band mate (and another Boomerocity favorite), Joe Bonamassa. JB’s fingerprints are all over this tune is sure to be a crowd favorite. Beautifully written and produced, I found myself hitting “repeat” . . . often.

    The last in my trifecta of favorites is one of Sherinian/Phillip’s three collaborations with another guitar great, Steve Lukather. The tune is Seven Sins and is indescribably smooth – especially the great bass work provided by Jimmy Johnson.

    Oceana. You’ll definitely want this one.

  • Tour De Force: Live In London

    Tour de Force: Live In London
    Joe Bonamassa
    Label: J&R Adventures
    Released: May 20, 2014
    Reviewed: May 25, 2014

    I’ve said it before about previous reviews of Joe Bonamassa offerings and I must say it again:  Regular Boomerocity readers know that I have a short version review of any Joe Bonamassa project.  This time is no exception.  Ready?  Here it is:

    Love it/buy it.

    To be technically correct, I’d have to say all of the above a total of four times because that’s how many CD sets Mr. Bonamassa has rolled out for his fans. Entitled, “Tour de Force – Live In London”, the foursome is offered both as individual concert discs or as a special premium boxed set.  The shows at each of the venues have been captured on two discs per location guaranteeing substantial coverage of each performance.

    Whether in the spacious, historic Royal Albert Hall, the cozy Borderline or the performances at Shepherd’s Bush Empire or Hammersmith Apollo in between, the performances are jaw-dropping in their own right.

    While fans will notice that there are plenty of the JB staples on these discs (“Django/Mountain Time”, “Sloe Gin” and “Just Got Paid:, for instance), don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re the same ol’ tunes. Just as in any Bonamassa performance, Joe brings new life and energy into those cherished songs. In addition to those favorites, Joe delivers phenomenal performances of newer tunes such as “Dust Bowl”, “Driving Toward The Daylight”, “Slow Train” and “Dislocated Boy”. 

    JB enthusiasts will also be pleased to know that he has also captured his fun with the theremin during his performances of “The Ballad Of John Henry”.  And get this!  The theremin thingy comes in at almost precisely the same time on each of the three performances – I mean with seconds of each other.

    That’s scary good!

    Bonamassa fans will definitely want all four performances as part of their listening library – and to join their video library of the same performances.  As for what to choose to turn people on to this amazing talent?  That’s a hard one to decide. My feeling is that you can’t go wrong with any of them.  Just close your eyes and pick one.

     

Featured Photo

Jim Keltner.Broken Glass DW

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is is a bit different from past featured photos. 

 

 

The Boomerocity Interview Vault

Interviews

Posted October, 2011   I’m not an audiophile but I think I know good ...

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