Tributees: Howlin' Wolf; Muddy Waters.
Joe Bonamassa designed his Red Rocks tribute concert to Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf as a fund-raiser for his Keeping the Blues Alive foundation, so it makes sense that the accompanying live album begins with a capsule history of the Mississippi Delta blues, and also has interview excerpts from Waters and Wolf peppered throughout. Bonamassa wanted this particular show to be instructive in addition to being entertaining, so he needs to explain the subjects of his tribute, even if they are two of the biggest blues figures of the 20th century. He divides his show in thirds, playing a set of Waters, then a set of Wolf, before concluding with an encore of his own material. Bonamassa isn't supported by his usual band, so this has a bit of a more pure Chicago feel, although this would never be mistaken for something cut at Chess: the guitarist stretches out too far in his solos, plus there's a pretty high quotient of jumping horns. That said, the new band does indeed goose the guitarist along and he sounds thrilled to be digging into these tunes, several of which aren't standard selections, and that's what makes Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks a cut above the standard Bonamassa live albums. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine