Joe Bonamassa – From Child Prodigy to Modern-Day Blues-Rock Hero

Joe Bonamassa is considered by many to be the top blues guitarist of the present generation.  While most musicians his age draw influences from the ‘80s and ‘90s bands they grew up with, Bonamassa grew up listening to his parents’ classic rock records, a great foundation for any budding blues-rocker.  His solo career may just be little more than a decade old, but since 2000, Bonamassa has released a whopping 15 albums (eleven in the studio, four live) and three concert DVDs.  Indeed, this relatively young man has achieved as much in 12 years as most older musicians would in a lifetime’s worth of recorded music.

Joe Bonamassa was born on May 8, 1977 in New Hartford, New York as a fourth-generation musician.  It was his parents who first exposed him to rock music and the electric guitar.  Bonamassa first learned to play guitar at the age of 4, and three years after that, he was copying his heroes’ intricate leads perfectly.  And take note these weren’t any ordinary musical heroes, but the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  The child prodigy would open for legends such as B.B. King and Danny Gatton in the late ‘80s, and his own blues band, Hot in the Shade, became regulars in the New York gigging scene.  As a teenager, Bonamassa joined the band Bloodline, which featured the sons of several famous musicians – rhythm guitarist Waylon Krieger (the Doors’ Robby Krieger), bassist/lead vocalist Berry Oakley Jr. (the Allman Brothers’ Berry Oakley Sr.) and drummer Erin Davis (Miles Davis).  Bloodline disbanded soon after their self-titled 1994 debut, but it was clear that lead guitarist Bonamassa was the star of the band, despite not having a famous dad like his bandmates.

Six years later, Bonamassa, now 23 years old, released his solo debut, A New Day Yesterday, which was quickly followed up by So, It’s Like That, which topped the Billboard Blues album charts in 2002.  Unlike other “young guns” like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Bonamassa offered fans more than just a straight-up interpretation of the blues.  With a voice reminiscent of the Allman Brothers’ Gregg Allman and a sound redolent of ‘70s classic rock, Bonamassa had found his niche as one of the youngest and hardest blues-rockers in the scene.  Though not as well-received as his first two releases, Blues Deluxe (2003), Had to Cry Today (2004) and You and Me (2006) also impressed most reviewers and helped solidify Bonamassa’s status as the “pre-eminent bluesman of his generation.”

 The next few albums – Sloe Gin (2007), The Ballad of John Henry (2009), Black Rock (2010) and Dust Bowl (2011) – would feature more experimentation, with a more distinct touch of American blues, country and folk music.   A new album, Driving Towards the Daylight, was released just last month, again earning positive feedback from fans and reviewers alike.  With its usual mix of interesting cover material and brilliant compositions, Driving Towards the Daylight proves that Joe Bonamassa, just 35 years old, has no plans of slowing down nor forsaking the British blues influence that has been the guiding force throughout his career.  With recent collaborations such as the all-covers album Don’t Explain (with Beth Hart) and the supergroup Black Country Communion (with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian), there doesn’t seem to be an idle moment in Joe Bonamassa’s career.