Joe Bonamassa carried the torch for old-fashioned, guitar-driven blues-rock just when its progenitors eased into elder statesman status. Bonamassa was raised on the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jeff Beck, honing his skills with the revered Telecaster master Danny Gatton before the young guitarist reached his teens. His prodigious gifts pushed the guitarist onto the national stage while he was still in his adolescence but Bonamassa truly began to build an audience in the 2000s, particularly after he teamed with producer Kevin Shirley in the latter part of the decade. By the dawn of the 2010s, Bonamassa was an undisputed guitar hero, the most popular blues-based six-string slinger of his generation, a status he achieved through hard work. His productivity didn't slow in the 2010s or the 2020s, either. In addition to releasing new studio albums with regularity, there was a steady stream of live records from the guitarist, plus he cut duet albums with Beth Hart and played with the hard rock outfit Black Country Communion.
Hailing from Utica, New York, Bonamassa could play the blues before he could drive a car. He first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan at age four and was instantly taken by Vaughan's high-powered playing. At age eight, he opened for B.B. King, and at age 12, he was playing regularly around upstate New York. It was soon thereafter that Bonamassa hooked up with the band Bloodline, which featured other musicians' sons: Waylon Krieger (Robby Krieger's son), Erin Davis (Miles Davis' drummer kid), and Berry Oakley, Jr. (son of the Allman Brothers bassist). Bloodline released a self-titled album, but Bonamassa wanted to move on. In summer 2000 he guested for Roger McGuinn on Jethro Tull's summer tour, later releasing his debut solo album, A New Day Yesterday. Produced by longtime fan Tom Dowd, the album marked a move toward a more organic and rock-sounding direction. He put together a power trio with drummer Kenny Kramme and bassist Eric Czar and hit the road to support the album.
Returning to Nashville, he recorded his studio follow-up to Different Shades of Blue, working with many of the same songwriters who'd appeared on that 2014 album. Blues of Desperation appeared in March of 2016. Another live recording, Live at the Greek Theatre, which celebrated the work of blues legends such as B.B. King, Freddie King, and Albert King, followed that summer. At the beginning of that year, Bonamassa headed out on an all-acoustic tour that saw him performing some of his best-known material in a new way. The tour included two nights at the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York that were filmed and recorded for prosperity. The performances saw him backed by a full band alongside the likes of guest musicians Chinese cellist and erhuist Tina Guo and Egyptian percussionist and composer Hossam Ramzy. The recording, Live at Carnegie Hall: An Acoustic Evening, was released in mid-2017. Bonamassa re-teamed with Beth Hart for Black Coffee, an album of covers that was released in January of 2018. Also that year, he delivered British Blues Explosion, a live album recorded during a five-show run at the Royal Navy College in London, in which he performed covers from his top three British influences: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. August of 2020 saw Bonamassa release a new 20th anniversary version of his debut album A New Day Yesterday. Entitled A New Day Now, it was remixed, remastered, and had the vocals entirely re-recorded. A few months later, the guitarist delivered Royal Tea, his salute to classic British blues. ~ MacKenzie Wilson & Al Campbell