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'Driving Towards The Daylight'
(Provogue Records, J&R Records/Fontana)

Phil Kane

phil kane

joe bonamassa driving towards the daylight

When is a covers album not a covers album? When it's a Bonamassa album. 'Driving Towards The Daylight' is a collection of Bonamassa originals and covers of some not so well known blues oldies and here he comes pretty damn close to being a one man Time Team special.

'Driving Towards The Daylight' is Bonamassa's eleventh studio album. Recorded at The Village Recorder in Los Angeles and Studio At The Palms in Las Vegas it is a back-to-basics album that highlights Bonamassa's skill of mixing up different styles, in this case blues, roots, a bit of swing and a healthy dose of rock n' roll. It has been produced by Kevin Shirley (Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin), their seventh collaboration in six years.

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'Driving Towards The Daylight' is one of those special albums that will appeal equally to the hard core blues contingent as well as the completely uninitiated. Bonamassa combines his own writing (like the driving simmering tarmac groove of 'Heavenly Soul') with that of the old masters (there's a great cover of Howlin' Wolf's 'Who's Been Talking' that not only has a great Fleetwood Mac groove to it, it even has an old sound bite of Wolf telling Aynsley Dunbar how he wants the track to feel.

Man, that just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, whilst showing an obvious affection for the big British blues, rock and R&B outfits of the late sixties and early seventies. To cap it all off he has not been afraid to chuck in a brass section here and there (as on 'A Place In My Heart') to great effect.

As good as Bonamassa is, his ace in the hole has to be his long time production partner Kevin Shirley who gives Bonamassa's sound a great Gibson growl that the likes of Brian Robertson and Nugent revelled in. A man who has worked with some of the biggest hard rock outfits in history, it could be argued that without him Joe would just sound like another of the thousands of Hendrix/SRV wannabes that have plagued us for years now.

At the moment Bonamassa is a very busy man who not only takes care of his own business with a work rate that most would find withering, he also does the occasional thing for others too. So why he continues his commitment to Black Country Communion is a mystery because 'Driving Towards The Daylight' is a far greater accomplishment than anything BCC has done.

It is not hard to see why Bonamassa is a fast rising world dominating force of nature. Rather than use mimicry to flatter, he presents his admiration through the music of his heroes but done as he would prefer. His renditions are not note for note covers nor, however, does he make you take a huge leap of faith to make the connection. He just plays his blues the way he thinks they should be and with Kevin Shirley on board he has the perfect collaborator in achieving his vision.

For the initiated this will now be standard stuff, to those yet to get into the blues, then 'Driving Toward the Daylight' may well prove a life changing album; a revelation. It is not by any means original but when the blues is made to sound this vital, fresh and alive who gives a flying fuck.

Just as an afterthought:-

Not so long ago, around about the time of Slow Gin, Bonamassa played The Wharf in Tavistock. A very small intimate venue of less than 600 standing. It is pretty much what you'd expect in a small market town in the middle of Devon's badlands. Less than a year later he was headlining a sold out Royal Albert Hall. Now, how fucking meteoric is that?! It is to my eternal shame and disappointment that I was not at the Tavi gig because I doubt I'll ever get another chance to see Bonamassa in such an up close and personal environment.

Just thought y'all would like to know that. Just to let yer know that even down here in the hole tricks get missed.

Just get the album.



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