As Joe Bonamassa grows his reputation as one of the world’s greatest guitar players, he is also evolving into a charismatic blues‐rock star and singer‐songwriter of stylistic depth and emotional resonance. His ability to connect with live concert audiences is transformational, and his new album, The Ballad Of John Henry, brings that energy to his recorded music more powerfully than ever before. The ninth solo album and seventh studio release of his career – as well as his fourth consecutive with producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, etc.) – the disc adds a heavy dose of “swamp” to Bonamassa’s virtuoso mix of ‘60s‐era British bluesrock (à la Beck and Clapton) and roots‐influenced Delta sounds. It shows off Bonamassa’s vocal range as much as his instrumental voodoo, and the artist says, “I feel this is my strongest work to date.”
Like that of John Henry, Bonamassa’s story has its fair share of legend, grit and endurance. Remarkably, the 2009 release of The Ballad Of John Henry coincides with his twentieth year as a professional musician, an extraordinary timeline for a young artist just into his ’30s. A child prodigy, Bonamassa was finessing Stevie Ray Vaughan licks when he was seven and by the time he was ten, had caught B.B. King’s ear. After first hearing him play, King said, “This kid's potential is unbelievable. He hasn't even begun to scratch the surface. He's one of a kind.” By age 12, Bonamassa was opening shows for the blues icon (something he also did recently as the opener on King’s 80th birthday tour), and went on to tour with venerable acts including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker and Gregg Allman. Bonamassa’s recording career began in the early ’90s with Bloodlines, a hard‐charging rock‐blues group also featuring Robby Krieger’s son Waylon and Miles Davis’ son Erin. His 2000 solo debut, A New Day Yesterday, was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd; Bonamassa’s rendering of the title track, originally a Jethro Tull hit, was called, “a jaw‐dropping performance” by allmusic.com. Recently, he was named Guitar Player’s “Best Blues Guitarist” in 2007 and 2008 and has won Blues Wax’s “Artist of the Year” an unprecedented three times.
Bonamassa circles the globe playing an average of 200 shows a year, and his mind‐blowing guitar wizardry and electrifying stage presence are selling out progressively larger venues all the time. In 2009, he’ll make his headlining debut at Royal Albert Hall in the U.K., where audiences have been especially appreciative of his gifts. British publication Guitarist has written, “For all‐out invention, frenetic fret‐tickling & truly enormous tone, look no further than Bonamassa,” and journalist Pete Feenstra wrote of a BBC Live performance, that, “he is both as eloquent and learned about the music he plays as he is technically brilliant.” Sam Leach, one of the Beatles earliest promoters in the U.K., compared the first time he saw him to his initial glimpse of the Fab Four– “I got that same feeling of excitement…Joe is the premiere Blues/Rock artist on the planet.”
For seven years, Bonamassa has also been the foremost ambassador for the Memphis-based Blues Foundation’s Blues In The Schools program. While touring the U.S., he visits schools to promote the heritage of blues music to students nationwide and raise awareness for the award‐winning program.