Bonamassa's Cool Side Project
Bruce Von Stiers
For quite a while I had heard the name Joe Bonamassa. But I didn't know much about his music. But that all changed one night when I was working the phone bank for a pledge drive at my local PBS station. A concert of Joe's was the featured program for that night's pledge drive. Not only was the concert excellent, Joe had donated a guitar which was shown and raffled off at the station that night. So you might say I became a fan of Joe Bonamassa that night.
Since that time, I have had the opportunity to review a few albums from Joe. A couple were his own albums. A couple of others were Joe and other musicals artists getting together; Black Country Communion and Rock Candy Funk Party. Aside from those gathering of artists, Joe has worked on some stuff with blues/ rock artist Beth Hart.
Now Joe has a whole new side project. The project is a band named The Sleep Eazys. Their debut album is titled Easy To Buy, Hard To Sell.
The album has nine songs and lasts a bit over thirty minutes. It was produced by Joe and released on his label, J & R Adventures.
The album, and project, is a tribute to Joe's mentor, Danny Gatton. Often considered the world's best unknown guitarist, Gatton was a huge influence on Joe and helped shape the talent that Joe has become.
Besides Joe on guitar, the members of the Sleep Eazys make up a fantastic cross section of musicians. Anton Figg has played with in David Letterman's Late Night band. He does the percussion on the album. A member of the Musicians Hall of Fame, Michael Rhodes is on bass. Reese Wynans has recorded with anyone from Boz Scaggs to Stevie Ray Vaughn. He brings his talents on keyboards to the band. Trumpet on the album is done by Lee Thornburg. He has been a member of Supertramp and Tower of Power along with playing in Joe's touring band. And on saxophone is Paulie Cerra, another alum of Joe's touring band. The legendary Jimmy Hall helps out on harmonica and the esteemed John Jorgenson helps out as well. Jade McCrae and Juanita Tippins, who have both recorded with Joe on his albums, provide vocals for the band.
Joe and the guys start things out with a super cool rendition of the Link Wray song, Ace of Spades. Tough guitar, keys and drums make this a great way to start the album.
The King Curtis song, Blue Nocturne is a solid, low slung and slow blues piece. It has great guitar and cool keys.
Then the band pays homage to the James Bond film themes of John Berry. The song, Bond (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), keeps the main thrust of the film theme with a touch or two of extra guitar coolness. And there is some very nice vocal harmonies at the end of the song.
Then they take on the Danny Gatton song, Funhouse. A bit more subtle than the original, there is some terrific sax and guitar on the song.
Surf and sand films featuring Frankie and Annette came smilingly to mind when I heard the band's rendition of the Jimmy Bryant song, Ha So.
Keeping with a kind of throwback theme, there is a slick take on Hawaiian Eye. Mack David and Jerry Livingstone wrote this as the theme song for the detective show, Hawaiian Eye TV show which ran from 1959 to 1963.
Soft and gentle as a breeze is the band's rendition of the classic Ervin Drake song, It Was A Very Good Year.
There is a keyboard and guitar laden rendition of the Hank Garland song, Move. And there is a killer drum solo near the end of the song.
Quite a few people have covered the Tony Joe White classic, Pork Salad Annie. It is done on this album with reverence to the original music and adds some extra cool extra bits and pieces, especially the harmonica. And there were some great harmonies.
Easy To Buy, Hard To Sell has a somewhat different style of music than Joe Bonamassa's fans might be accustomed to. The listener gets an opportunity to hear Joe's take on some of the styles of music that influenced him. From the terrific keyboard on Ace of Spades to the tough guitar in Funhouse to a solid rendition of Pork Salad Annie, this is a fantastic album, and well worth your time to listen to.
Easy To Buy, Hard To Sell is out now, so you should be able to find at your favorite music outlet.
For additional information about the album, visit Joe's official web site at https://shop.jbonamassa.com/
You can also find Joe on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JBONAMASSA
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© 2020 Bruce E Von Stiers