Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Don't Explain (2011)

Full Disclosure: I'm not real crazy about Beth Hart. She's a very talented musician, and I think it was a great idea for Joe to team up with her, but musical taste can be a picky thing, and while I don't dislike Beth Hart to any extent, I'm not smitten with her either, as a lot of her fans seem to be. That's largely why I didn't rush out to pick up Don't Explain right away when it came out in 2011 (that, and the unfortunate fact that I'm becoming poor).

Don't Explain is a duet between virtuoso blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa and soul singer Beth Hart. It draws soulful inspiration from the likes of Etta James, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin, while marrying it to Joe's bluesy atmosphere. It actually works pretty well - the combination of blues and soul, creating a rather smoother minor feeling than Joe's usual blues/rock stuff. Of course, I like Joe's usual stuff, and I'm generally more fond of hard music than the smoother fare, but one thing you can't say about this music is that it's "light".

As a matter of fact, it is good mood music - the sort you could put on to create ambiance. I'd say it's a romantic album - and I still do - but that this is soul and the blues, and so it's not very happy. But romantic music has never had to be happy - not in my opinion, anyway. As soul music, though, what I like the most about soul music and soul singers especially, is the type of virtuoso singer who puts so much power and emotion into their performance that it threatens to drag you to tears. Like when Cheryl Barnes sings Easy To Be Hard in the hippie musical Hair. But I can't say that Beth Hart quite reaches that level on this album.

The standout tracks, for me, include the opener, Sinner's Prayer, easily one of the bluesier songs on the album - and one that I remember most distinctly Eric Clapton covering on his excellent From The Cradle blues album; I'd Rather Go Blind, a song that's been around the block, but I remember Christine McVie (who would later be part of Fleetwood Mac) singing in the band Chicken Shack - Bonamassa and Hart's version is very smooth and creamy; and I'll Take Care Of You, which features Joe's best solo on the album.

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