When Joanna Connor gave a young upstart guitarist called Joe Bonamassa the chance to open for her concert at the House of Blues in Chicago, little did she know that the favour would be repaid many years later when Joe helped her record and issue her latest album, 4801 South Indiana Avenue. That’s the address, by the way, of Theresa’s Lounge, a revered blues venue in Chicago…you may notice that the Windy City is becoming a theme. Well, Joanna may be a new name to some parts of the world but she has been gracing the stages of that city (and others around the world) since the 80s and has worked with, amongst others, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Magic Slim and Eddie Shaw. There are also, I think, around fourteen albums in her catalogue…oh dear, this could get expensive! JC, if I may abbreviate, is a slide guitar specialist and can put more meaning and emotion in one quiver of her bottleneck than many achieve in a lifetime (and I include myself in that number have tried and failed miserably to replicate some of the phrasings that come so naturally to her on this album).
Joe Bonamassa contributes guitar as well as production (and it’s issued on his fledgeling and most worthy Keeping the Blues Alive record label) along with Josh Smith and a recognisable and remarkable band…how about this for a line-up? Bonamassa, Smith, keyboardist Reese Wynans, bassist Cavin Turner, and drummer Lemar Carter…stand by for quality blues-rock as we get a ten-track mix of originals and inspired covers. By the way, there’s also a fascinating interview with Joanna here on Bluesdoodles.
On to the music, and the opening Destination from the pen of Jimmy Thackeray, has hefty percussion and the first taste of the majestic slide skills, before backing guitarist (!) JB adds some punch while Wynans adds some fabulous piano before the slide solo that is a little low in the mix for me (or that may be my review copy) – I’ll find out when the CD arrives.
Next is a great blues standard structure shuffle; Come Back Home may follow a pattern but it shows how good a vocalist JC is and the slide and solos are sublime. Stand by for six and a half minutes of the Luther Allison song Bad News…the bell tolls and the well-known tropes flow but with a delicious new edge as JC makes the slide sing throughout and shows that it isn’t all about screaming notes with the bottleneck next to the pickups…no, it traverses the whole neck and all six strings brilliantly…Reece does a damn good job, naturally, on a tantalising piano solo. A quality song in its original incarnation; now that special bit better in my humble.
I Feel So Good is next and this bountiful boogie will do just that…the train track start and magnificent slide intro builds to a JC note that you keep thinking…breathe for goodness sake! Oh, it delivers yet another breathtaking slide solo that makes me want to hang up my bottleneck; she so fluid and instinctive but never predictable…take the subtle latter part of the solo for example, before they all crash back in when you were expecting a fade.
The great Albert King provides the next song, For The Love of a Man, and they pay due deference to the original by bringing in horny horns and JC restrains the slide a little to reflect the Kingisms of the original while still delivering another inspired slinky, slidey solo. Trouble Trouble is a slower-paced horn, piano and guitar drenched blues with a hint of soul to enrich…guess what? another slide solo of sheer quality.
Hound Dog Taylor provides the template with a version of his song, Please Help. Here it gets speeded up a little and maintains the Dog depth but, yet again, the slide lights up every phrase and the sound has been purposefully given vintage edge…especially on the delightful bass line. Cut You Loose is what I like to call a ‘fast walking blues’ and the riff is one of those aural sex tunes that you can’t deny! The solo travels all over the fretboard through different time signatures but never misses a classy note.
The last two tracks have had JB on solo duty and, naturally, he does it brilliantly. The first is Part Time Love which also brings sweeping Hammond, some sax and more slithering slide to remind Joe whose album it is. Slow, soulful and bluesy too. The final track is It’s My Time that features enthralling percussion and sparse bass, spoken vocal and a ‘let’s join in’ chorus plus a slide duet (bliss!) with JC and JB…it rarely gets better than this.
You may have gathered by now that I love this album…yes I’m a guitar freak and I’m anyone’s for great slide, but there is so much more for any blues lover that you must give this a listen…and then buy it because by doing so we might just ensure that we get another album from this talented lady. If we do JC, how about some Son House next time..I bet one of the greatest ever blues records (Pearline) would sound great with your slide skills and, if you want any more suggestions, I have about a million ready and waiting!
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – I cannot fault this album as it addresses the blues (albeit with a Chicago tint) so damned well. The playing is impeccable, inventive and a delight from start to finish and Mr Bonamassa’s presence guilds a high-quality lily perfectly.
Come Back Home
I Feel So Good
For The Love of a Man
Cut You Loose
Part Time Love
It’s My Time
Joanna Connor – Vocals, Guitar all tracks
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar on all tracks (Solos on 9 & 10)
Josh Smith – Guitar on all tracks
Reese Wynans – Keyboards
Calvin Turner – Bass
Lemar Carter – Drums and Percussion
Steve Patrick – Trumpet
Mark Douthit – Saxophone
Barry Green – Trombone
Jimmy Hall – Vocals on Track 1
(The iTunes run on track this time delivered another maven of blues guitar (sans slide) in the shape of the delectable Joanne Shaw Taylor and her 2012 album Almost Always Never…the track was the self explanatory Soul Station.)