Any review of the latest album from the Grammy nominated pairing of Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa has to begin with the spellbinding title track. Rival Sons took on the Ike & Tina Turner track (also made famous by Humble Pie) and delivered a show-stopping, hair-raising performance. Here, Hart & Bonamassa take it a step further and really turn it up. The slide action from Bonamassa throughout is enough to encourage reaching over and turning it up to eleven, and while Bonamassa is concentrating on that bodacious slide, just sit back and soak up the stellar work from fellow guitarist Rob McNelley. Hart sounds stronger than she has ever sounded, and obviously revels recording in the live environment that producer Kevin Shirley created. The third studio album from Hart & Bonamassa (the first in four years), is a perfect example of how crucial it is to have everyone in the same studio at the same time. It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle when parts are sent in digitally. The fact that the album was recorded live in just five days proves that the players were feeling the magic. Five days is about the length of time the dirty dishes have been lying untouched in my sink… and these guys cut an album in that time!
Skipping the tried and tested route of covering soul classics that have been done to death, Hart & Bonamassa delve a bit deeper and go for some lesser known nuggets. ‘Black Coffee’ is perhaps the best known of the ten tracks, with ‘Addicted’, originally by Austrian trio Waldeck, perhaps the least known. The original was heard by Kevin Shirley whilst on vacation, discovered through the powers of Shazam. Closing the album off with a few delicious, laid back, reggae infused moments, featuring some fine work on the keyboards by Bonamassa mainstay Reese Wynans. Bonamassa himself lets fly with an amazing solo towards the end. Maybe it’s the fact that the pressure of having to sing as well as play is off Bonamassa when he records with Beth Hart, but whenever they team up, I feel his playing steps up a notch. From the effects-laden intro of ‘Give It Everything You Got’, and the heartfelt solo on ‘Lullaby Of The Leaves’, to the full throttle ‘Saved’, Bonamassa plays like his life depends on it. Hart equally rises to the occasion, and proves time after time why she is so highly regarded. Highlights would have to be the title track, the smoking version of ‘Joy’, and the powerhouse performance on ‘Soul On Fire’. Special mention has to go to the incredible band assembled for the recording. Add the horn section and the backing singers, and the end result is something very special indeed. Some live dates would be nice!
‘Black Coffee’ is available now through Mascot Label Group, purchase here.
Review: Dave Stott