new day for guitarist
Bonamassa continues musical mission with
Jan. 27, 2002
YORK CITY Twenty-four years
old seems young to be at a career crossroads.
more or less where Joe Bonamassa finds
Bonamassa, the guitar ace from New York
Mills who picked up the instrument at
age 4 and was gigging by the time he was
11, released his first solo CD, A
New Day Yesterday, in November 2000.
Then he re-released it nine months later
on an independent label after his original
label, Okeh/Epic, did not get behind the
Major labels today have a hard time
understanding the concept of a grass roots,
blue collar following, Bonamassa
said in a recent phone interview from
New York City during a brief break from
a tour schedule that has been breakneck
since the CDs re-release.
The albums redux treatment and Bonamassas
torrid touring seem to have turned the
trick. Plus, scores of FM radio stations
particularly in the Midwest, where
Bonamassas audience is the hungriest
are playing a pair of new singles
from the album.
Theyve done miraculous things
with it, Bonamassa said of Medalist,
his new label. It gives an album
that I worked so hard on a new lease on
life. I dont want to be in the miscellaneous
B file for the rest of my
The music has to have a chance to
The new label
Medalist was founded recently by Charles
Koppelman, the music industry veteran
and former president of EMI/Capitol who
as producer and publisher has worked with
the likes of Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand,
Billy Joel and the Lovin Spoonful.
indie labels go, Medalist has muscle.
Bonamassas decision to go with an
independent label reflects his sense of
purpose as an artist working in a genre
whose origins as well as the bulk
of its audience are working class.
Still, Bonamassas musical mission
involves growing the blues and blues rock
audience, just like his guitar heroes
Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck chief
among them did 30 to 35 years ago.
Ive always been a huge fan
of the blues, but Ive always been
a huge fan of people whove done
something different with it, said
Bonamassa, who now lives in Washington,
D.C. We need people who will take
the shot. In order to keep it fresh, in
order to get a wider audience, you have
to do something different.
There are no rules. We need another
With A New Day Yesterday,
Bonamassa takes aim at that theoretical
wider audience. The 12 songs (the maiden
single, Miss You, Hate You,
appears in two versions) run the range
of the blues-rock spectrum, with covers
and originals in equal proportion.
I wanted it to be an all-encompassing
overview of who I am, who Ive listened
to, and what I feel from playing,
Bonamassa said upon the albums initial
Stylistically it all flows in one
direction but when you listen from
track one through 12, theres enough
variety to keep people interested.
The title song, one of Jethro Tulls
heavier blues-based exercises, is the
third of three covers that together set
the tone for the album, which includes
guest appearances by Gregg Allman, Rick
Derringer, Leslie West and Len Bonamassa,
Joes father. The opener, Cradle
Rock, is a Rory Gallagher slide
number and the second cut, Walk
in My Shadow, was by the British
blues rock band Free.
I wanted the first three songs to
be covers of great songs that never got
their due, Bonamassa said.
Bonamassa also tips us off to his longstanding
preference for the more refined, sophisticated
yet hyperdriven British take
on the blues.
It kind of says it all about what
Im trying to do, he said of
the title cut. Their (the British)
interpretation of the blues to me was
really right on.
Ahead of the competition
Bonamassa opened for Jethro Tull during
the summer of 2000 Uticas
Stanley Performing Arts Center was one
stop on that tour and the song
was a staple of his set then as it is
(With) that song in particular,
we sound like if Black Sabbath was a blues
band, he said. Even Jethro
Tull fans dug it.
For the album, Bonamassa enlisted legendary
engineer/producer Tom Dowd as producer.
Dowds pedigree includes 25 years
at Atlantic Records, where he recorded
the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin
and John Coltrane and revolutionized multi-track
recording processes. He went on to produce
albums for the Allman Brothers Band, Eric
Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rod Stewart
Hes the absolute nicest, best
gentleman Ive ever met, Bonamassa
said, and one of the most brilliant
musical minds I ever worked with. Theres
nothing that comes up ... that he cant
address and fix.
Dowd has said he admires the fact that
Bonamassa, despite being a prodigy, has
the spirit of a student and has
survived 24 years without acquiring an
attitude about any of his
He is still studying other playing,
writing and singing techniques
even though hes miles ahead of the
nearest competition, Dowd said.
The early years
Bonamassas early and mid-1990s work
with Bloodline, whose lineup included
the sons of jazz legend Miles Davis, Robby
Krieger of the Doors and the Allman Brothers
Berry Oakley, received criticism for weak
As a solo artist Bonamassa is taking songwriting
Its a good outlet, said
Bonamassa, who is close to signing a publishing
deal with powerful DreamWorks. When
you get things right, nothing can beat
A New Day Yesterday also reveals
Bonamassa as a capable singer who will
continue to find his voice. He said the
more he learns about singing, the more
conscious his guitar playing becomes,
and vice versa.
Performing at the rate of 150 shows a
year since the albums first release
hasnt hurt his vocal chops, either.
You do that for a couple of years
straight, youre going to get better,
The near future promises to be busy for
the kid from the Mills who at age 8 opened
for B.B. King.
A live album is close to completion, and
Bonamassa soon will be back in the studio
working on his sophomore solo effort.
I want to make a blues and rock
record thats different than whats
been done before, and still retains the
things that are important to me,
he said. Its not going to
be a total musical departure for me, but
its not going to be A New
Day Yesterday II.
going into the studio, Bonamassa will
join Chicago blues giant Buddy Guy for
three-and-a-half weeks worth of
gigs on the West Coast.
Hes looking forward, meanwhile,
to headlining in Utica, when the time
The routing has never been right
(in recent years), but itd be nice
to come in and play a show in my hometown,
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