Thursday, August 25, 2016

Joe Bonamassa - Had To Cry Today (2004)

1. Never Make Your Move Too Soon
2. Travellin' South
3. Junction 61
4. Reconsider Baby
5. Around The Bend
6. Revenge Of The 10 Gallon Hat
7. When She Dances
8. Had To Cry Today
9. The River
10. When The Sun Goes Down
11. Faux Mantini

Although Joe's previous album distinguishes itself as "the blues album" (not that that doesn't describe over half his discography!), I like to think of this as Blues Deluxe 2. The balance is tipped more towards original songs than blues covers this time, but there are a lot of similarities that can be drawn between these two albums (starting with the fact that they both open with a B.B. King cover - which I think is pretty cool), and they seem to fit into the same more or less indistinguishable groove in my mind. Which is not a bad thing - Blues Deluxe was a good album, and so too is Had To Cry Today. Both albums were named for their British blues rock covers; this album venerates another of Joe's biggest influences - Eric Clapton, via the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith. By direct comparison, Had To Cry Today may not cook as hot as Blues Deluxe, but it's a great rock n roll jam, and still one of the standout tracks on this album, as well as among Joe's early period classic rock covers.

And the praise doesn't stop there. I already mentioned The River in my last review, which Joe would pair up with Burning Hell in concerts around this time - this was, for me, one of the highlights of Joe's early live shows. The River starts out with a quiet acoustic part, before breaking out into full electric mode, complete with slide guitar and harmonica (think Led Zeppelin's When The Levee Breaks). And then there's Reconsider Baby, a searing cover of a slow blues by Lowell Fulson, also featuring another great vocal performance by Joe. I'm surprised this track hasn't gotten more attention - it's always been one of my early favorites from Joe's discography. It's the first song in Joe's catalogue that really sounds "modern" to my ears (from this point forward, the music begins to sound more and more like the Joe I know from his more contemporary material). He's put out more than his fair share of guitar-heavy slow blues (which is alright by me, as that's my favorite kind of blues), and it may be that it gets to a point later on when there are too many to keep track of, but at this point, this song stands out like a beacon on the album, as a testament to the depth of emotion that fuels the blues in its finest moments.

Continuing with the comparisons to Blues Deluxe, Around The Bend seems to follow in the footsteps of I Don't Live Anywhere, with another statement on Joe's roadbound lifestyle ("I'll go down any road there is, to see what's around the bend"). And Faux Mantini could well be the spiritual successor to Woke Up Dreaming, falling firmly in the camp that features fancy acoustic fretwork. When She Dances is a sweet ballad ("when she dances, I see where my only chance is") that fashions itself as the Wonderful Tonight of Joe's catalogue (minus the arguably overrated popularity that the Clapton track courts), and reminds me of Neil Young's When You Dance You Can Really Love (thematically, if not strictly musically). Travellin' South (another Albert Collins cover) is a rollicking rocker, Revenge of the 10 Gallon Hat (with its almost country flavor) would seem to pioneer Joe's habit of recording musically interesting (yet arguably filler) tracks with goofy names, and the upbeat, mostly acoustic When The Sun Goes Down keeps the slide guitar and harmonica of The River going for just a little bit longer. All of these tracks come together to create an enjoyable listening experience, crafted by an artist who was - as history would show - on the verge of entering a new phase of his career.

Rating: 💿💿 Occasional Spin

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