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Had To Cry Today by Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa’s latest CD "Had to Cry Today" has no shortage of smokin’, let ‘er rip, blues/rock guitar blowing. Being 27 years old (not too young, but young enough to mention), his technique and command of so many different guitar heroes’ phrases and chops (ranging from Elmore James to Jeff Beck) is impressive. Bonamassa has also spent a lot of time (and money!) on getting the "phattest" sound out of his gear. He lists the guitars and amps used for each tune; very cool for gear heads and guitar aficionados. His gritty, tenor vocal style suits the music as well.

In relation to the blues/rock equation, Bonamassa comes down mostly on the rock side in terms of tone and sheer "heaviosity" (thank you Woody Allen). While Bonamassa has obviously studied and worked on much ‘traditional’ blues, this record is definitely in the ‘modern’ blues category, with a firm emphasis on the ‘guitar solo’. Although there are some slower, plaintive tunes, subtlety is not the focus. Nor need it be. Bonamassa came to kick some ass and that’s exactly what he does. The fact that his study and respect of the blues tradition may put off some hard rockers - while his study and respect of rock playing may put off some ‘bluesers’ - should not be considered a problem. Bonamassa is not concerned with giving in to any one particular group of listeners. Good for him.

The highlight of the record is "Revenge of the 10 Gallon Hat", dedicated to his friend and mentor Danny Gatton. Gatton told him to get into some chicken pickin’ and rockabilly stuff, and Bonamassa sure got into it. Major right hand picking technique and a real cool ‘head’ and form written by Bonamassa. This tune is one of just a couple on the record with a ‘clean’ sound throughout, and it’s pretty burning; A nice break from the rest of the record’s "heaviosity". In fact, seven of the eleven tunes on "Had to Cry Today" are original tunes.

Bonamassa has yet to truly find his own voice yet, however. As accomplished a player as he is, the bulk of the playing here still feels like an amassing of nearly internalized influences, albeit very well played. ‘Nearly’ is the key word in the previous sentence. For an album which represents "a never-ending search to find myself in music," I think it’s telling that it’s been titled after a tune written by someone else over 35 years prior. This is not meant to offend, or to say that Bonamassa is not on his way to finding his own voice. To the contrary. Only that it’s a long path, and that he’s got a great journey to look forward to - and a great head start!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Joe Bonamassa
  • CD Title: Had To Cry Today
  • Genre: Blues
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Premier Artists
  • Rating: Three Stars
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