Joe Bonamassa

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London, UK 2008: Award-winning blues-rock guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter Joe Bonamassa will release his seventh solo studio album (and ninth solo release), The Ballad Of John Henry, in February 2009. The album is released in Europe on Provogue Records, and features twelve tracks, split between Bonamassa originals and selections by songwriters including Ailene Bullock, Tom Waits and Tony Joe White. The album continues Bonamassa’s fruitful association with producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Black Crowes), and showcases both his famed guitar heroics and what an accomplished and versatile vocalist he’s become.

The Ballad Of John Henry will coincide with Bonamassa’s twentieth year as a professional musician – a child prodigy, he first opened shows for blues legend B.B. King at age 12. Reflecting on the new album, Bonamassa says, “I feel this is my strongest work to date. Making the first half of the album, I was in the happiest place I’d ever been in my life. The second half found me in completely the opposite state. I’ve come to the conclusion that experience makes for better art. I had more to say, and it’s the first time I’ve personally opened up the book on my life, expressed things I previously wouldn’t let out.”

Though Bonamassa says he’s now “heading north out of heartache,” several tracks address a devastating failed relationship including “Last Kiss” – recorded completely live – and “Happier Times.” Of the latter, he says, “That came at the bottom. I think it could be the best and most honest song I’ve ever written.” Another song Bonamassa feels is one of his strongest is “The Great Flood,” an apology letter to another ex-girlfriend with whom he’s now friends – “I had a nagging feeling that there were things left unsaid that needed to be put into words.”

The album’s lead and title track, “The Ballad Of John Henry,” is a muscular blues rocker in homage to the American icon who Bonamassa calls “the ultimate working class hero.” He was inspired to write it while touring through the U.S. and seeing things headed in what he felt was the wrong direction. “It used to be,” says Bonamassa,” there was dignity to being a middle class worker, making an honest living. My mom and my dad are my heroes, working their whole life at meaningful jobs that add to society. We need more of those heroes these days, and that’s what this song means to me.

Among The Ballad Of John Henry’s covers are Bonamassa’s versions of Tony Joe White’s “As The Crow Flies,” Ailene Bullock’s “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter,” Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full Of Bourbon,” Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s “Feelin’ Good” and the old Sam Brown tune “Stop!” by Greg Sutton and Bruce Brody. Bonamassa is once again backed by the stellar players Carmine Rojas (bass) and Anton Fig, Bogie Bowles (both on drums) as well as Rick Melick (keyboards) and Blondie Chaplin (rhythm guitar). The album is also Bonamassa’s first to feature horns, courtesy of Lee Thornburg and David Woodford.

It follows up the Bonamassa’s 2008 2-CD live set From Nowhere In Particular and the 2007 studio gem Sloe Gin, which debuted at #1 on US Billboard’s blues chart and both entered the top 50 of the UK albumcharts and top 5 in the Independent Charts. In a review of From Nowhere In Particular, Guitar Player magazine wrote, “Joe Bonamassa is an awesome player with a killer voice and a great band,” adding that the release, “finds Joe playing with soul, intensity and savage tones.” Sloe Gin won major acclaim as well, including the Guitarist Coverstory calling Joe “The Future Of The Blues” and a nod for Album Of The Year from the U.K.’s prestigious Classic Rock Roll Of Honour Awards. Classic Rock magazine wrote, “They’re calling him the future of blues, but they’re wrong – Joe Bonamassa is the present; so fresh and of his time that he almost defines it.”

Earlier in 2008, Bonamassa was named “Best Blues Guitarist” and “Artist Of The Year” in readers’ choice polls from Guitar Player and Blues Wax, respectively. He was also honored with the issuing of the “Inspired by Joe Bonamassa” Aged Les Paul Goldtop” from Gibson Custom; just 300 of the limited edition guitars, valued at $6,000 each, were made, and are almost sold out. Gibson.com wrote, “Right now, there’s no better blues-rock artist than Bonamassa.”

Bonamassa also remains active with the Blues Foundation’s Blues In The Schools program, and is planning his own philanthropic initiative for 2009. A full touring schedule notwithstanding, he can be heard every weekday, 12PM-12:15PM/ET, on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Daily Cup Of Joe.” Bonamassa also does a show for the U.K.’s Planet Rock radio, which airs Tuesdays at 7PM GMT, and repeats Sundays at 11PM GMT

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