Personnel: Joe Bonamassa (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Paulie Cerra (saxophone); Lee Thornburg (trumpet); Reese Wynans (piano, organ); Greg Morrow, Anton Fig (drums, percussion); Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins, Jade McRae (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Kevin Shirley.
Recording information: Grand Victor Studios, Nashville, TN.
Photographers: Rick Gould; Philippe Klose.
Despite its hardscrabble title -- a sentiment mirrored by the deeply etched black & white cover art -- 2016's Blues of Desperation is very much a continuation of the bright, varied blues-rock heard on Different Shades of Blue. On that 2014 album, Joe Bonamassa made a conscious decision to pair with a bunch of Nashville songsmiths to help sharpen his original material, and he brings most of them back for Blues of Desperation, too. The tenor of the tunes is somewhat heavy -- there are lonesome trains, low valleys, no places for the lonely -- and the production also carries a ballast, something that comes into sharp relief on the Zep-flavored title track but can be heard throughout the record. Often, he returns to this revved-up blues -- something that's more appealing when it boogies ("You Left Me Nothin' But the Bill and the Blues") than when it slams ("Distant Lonesome Train") -- and while that anchors the bulk of the record, the moments that linger are the departures. Usually, this arrives in the form of some flirtation with soul -- it's an undercurrent on "No Good Place for the Lonely" but it comes to the surface on the gilded "The Valley Runs Low" -- but the most fun is the vintage New Orleans shuffle of "Livin' Easy," a song that suggests Bonamassa may have surprises in store if he ever decides to shelve his trusty Les Pauls for the course of a full record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine