Currently on the road supporting his tenth studio album and thirteenth solo career album, “Driving Towards Daylight,” blues-rock guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa’s star has steadily risen over the years. His career hit the fast lane in 2009 when Eric Clapton joined him on stage in London for their now classic performance of Clapton’s “Further Up The Road” captured on his best-selliing DVD/CD, “Joe Bonamassa: Live From Royal Albert Hall.”
“That was such a wonderful experience to stand up there on that stage and play with Eric Clapton,” reflected Bonamassa, who was discovered and mentored by B.B. King at age 12. “That was the coolest thing ever. It was the thrill of a lifetime.” Ol' Slowhand later asked Bonamassa to repay the favor by performing for Clapton's celebrated 2010 “Crossroads” concert at Chicago's Grant Park in June of 2010.
The flurry of media following his Royal Albert Hall performance, helped push Bonamassa’s 2010 album, “Black Rock,” which featured a duet with his mentor King into the Top 40 on the Billboard albums chart. It was an album showing a musical evolution, the first of his releases to showcase more than his six-string process, focusing also on Bonamassa’s vocal abilities as well.
“We definitely took a different approach with that album,” he said. “That was more about the songs and melody, more about singing and less about soloing (than previous albums).”
Bonamassa joked – “I’m a 20 year overnight sensation!” -- of the sudden fame and flood of public attention heaped upon him just a few years ago after a lifetime of playing and recording. “It’s taken a while, but we did progressively better every year and with every album,” he added, suggesting years of hard work make success even sweeter when it comes.
The artist believes hard work and being the best you can be is the secret to the success he has found. “We’ve just always made it a priority to do a good live show every time we step on stage and I think that has been paying off for us,” he said. “We come out and give the audience everything we’ve got every night. When you do that, the audience remembers you.
His amazing live shows , coupled with the success of “Black Rock,” it’s Nashville-steeped follow-up “Dust Bowl” (with guest appearances by Vince Gill and John Hiatt), and the live in London DVD resulted in Bonamassa receiving many accolades; including being named Billboard Magazine’s “#1 Blues Artist of 2010” and “2011’s Guitarist of the Year” by “Guitar International” magazine.
Along with steadily forging ahead with his successful career, Bonamassa maintains a variety of side projects. Most notably, the hard rocking band Black Country Communion, which teams the bluesman with veteran rockers Glenn Hughes (bassist/vocalist), Derek Sherinian (keyboards) and Jason Bonham (drums). The prolific super group released two studio albums and a live concert DVD (“Live Over Europe”) to rave reviews since 2010, with their third studio album “Afterglow,” released last month.
Bonamassa also took time to contribute to the 2012 Deep Purple Tribute CD, “Re-Machined A Tribute to Deep Purple’s Machine Head,” performing a tasty treatment of Purple’s “Lazy,” with Jimmy Barnes, who is featured on Joe’s “Driving Towards The Daylight.”
Another project was his 2011 collaboration with vocalist Beth Hart on an album of cover songs – “Don’t Explain” – pulling from the songbooks of Tom Waits, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, among others.
Most recently, the guitarist/singer/songwriter was a guest in living rooms via his much lauded PBS television concert, “Joe Bonamassa: Beacon Theatre – Live From New York,” which was released on DVD earlier this year (debuting at #3 on the Billboard DVD chart) with a companion audio CD. The concert featured a variety of special guests and celebrity Bonamassa fans, including Beth Hart, John Hiatt and Bad Company/Free’s iconic vocalist, Paul Rodgers.
Like the rest of the music world, this writer first discovered Bonamassa in the early 1990s, as a member of the teenage blues-rock group, Bloodline, a promising but ill-fated outfit featuring Waylon Krieger, Eric Davis and Berry Oakley Jr. – the sons of famous musical icons Robbie Krieger (of the Doors), Miles Davis, and Berry Oakley (of the Allman Brothers).
“We were together for six years,” reflected Bonamassa of Bloodline. “It was so long ago, but I’m proud of the record we made and I’m happy to have had the experience. It was a good group, but it ran its course because of youth and inexperience.”
Bonamassa remains wonderfully humble despite his tremendous success and is clearly appreciative of all that has happened in his life and career since the Bloodline days of his teens. “It’s been a long and wonderful journey to get to this point,” he said. “A journey made with the help and support of a lot of amazing, wonderful and talented people.”