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Music Review: Joe Bonamassa — Sloe Gin

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I won't drag you down into the minutiae that happens behind the magic BC Magazine curtains, but we've once again found ourselves re-examining what BC is, what it isn't, how we do what we do, how we could do it better, and the very nature of what it is to be a community, online or otherwise.

Mark Saleski's Friday Morning Listen column this week picked up on that latter theme as he retold the tale of meeting fellow BC'er and Mondoite Sir Mary Williams and I'd like to add a testimonial of my own.

I got an e-mail from Joan Hunt telling me to keep an eye on my mailbox. For those of you who have forgotten, Joan and I did a segment on the BC Radio Podcast called "BC On The Blues." Joan and I regularly held court to "Talk About The Passion" for the blues as an institution as well as our passion for the music. I can't tell you exactly how many times she invoked the name Joe Bonamassa. I had never heard of him before she and I began talking and collaborating on podcast segments, but I was well aware of him by the time the show came to a close earlier this year.

That podcast allowed me to talk to a number of the pillars of this BC Magazine community, an experience I will never forget. Joan and I talked the blues, Saleski and I about music and the Red Sox. There were several weeks we got so engrossed in conversation we never got around to actually recording a segment.

A.L. Harper called from Scotland to talk about the Band of the Week and various other things that can get a person excommunicated. I never got to speak to the mad scientist that is The Duke De Mondo, but he also sent regular segments bursting with hilarity and genius.  Sir Mary and I talked 24 and she would gamely try to talk about the show without ruining the endings for me. Jon Sobel shared his knowledge of indie music, Monsignor Eric Berlin and I talked politics and later shared our love for The Sopranos. Phillip Winn came on once but never re-appeared after my savage remixing of him. Matt Sussman and I talked sports and exchanged bad puns. Sal "Muscles" Marinello was my go-to guy for all things Barry Bonds. Ken "Gameboy" Edwards would come on to talk about games and endure the fact I knew fuck-all about most of what he was talking about.

I also got to spend a great many hours getting to know the "Olsen Twins," Eric and Dawn Olsen, who are actually not twins. Through my marathon conversations with EO I learned so much about this site, its people, its challenges and its triumphs. I also learned a lot about the subjects we covered because EO knows more about more things than anyone I've ever not met in real life in my life (did you follow that?). In Dawn I found a kindred spirit, a sister of sarcasm, and a lot more depth than she'll ever admit to having. I also had a metric buttload of laughs.

So what does this stroll down Amnesia Lane have to do with Joe Bonamassa? Everything!

The package Joan told me to keep an eye on included Sloe Gin. She knew that after all her evangelistic efforts on Joe's behalf on BC Radio that she had failed to convert me. Some people, after all that yakking and praising, would have given up. Some would have simply chalked it up to "his loss" and moved on. Not many would reach into their own pocketbook and send a copy of that CD, daring the stubborn jackass to withstand the might in the music therein. It's only because of all the hours I spent talking to Joan that I know she is not the kind of person to let it go. Well, that and the CD in my hands.

Speaking of that CD, it blew away my preconceived notions born of ignorance. I expected a collection of songs overflowing with bluesy-sounding notes and recycled licks that had the sound of the blues without any of the emotion. I should have known better. 

Sloe Gin is a textured album that uses the blues as its jumping off point, but doesn't bend to the strict demands of the conventions of the genre. He hasn't redefined the blues and the music never strays far from those constructs, but he hasn't enslaved himself to the conventions, either. There are acoustic songs, electric songs and originals and covers. He picks and chooses his spots carefully when it comes to soloing and his vocals are solid.

Passing on great music to someone else is one of life's real joys, and when that happens you want to keep that joy alive and pass it on to someone else. That can only happen within the broader confines of a community, and BC Magazine has been that community for me.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • Glen Boyd

    Wow…have to say I got a little misty reading that Josh. Nice review though. Oh, and we love you too, man.


  • Mark Saleski

    great stuff josh!

  • Pico

    Eh, Saleski just likes your review ‘cos he got name checked in it. ;&)

    I like it because it really is good. Well, that, and because I just picked up Sloe Gin myself. Can’t wait to try it out, now.

  • Phillip Winn

    Joan got me hooked on Bonamassa as well, so now I’m going to have to buy this album. Oh well!

  • Josh

    Thanks, all. This was a fun one to write. I got to say a lot of things I’ve wanted to say, some of them for quite awhile.

    Pico, you’re going to like this one. So will you, Phillip. You definitely want to pick up a copy soon.

  • Tim Hall

    While it might not be the best album of the year (2007 has been a great year for albums), that title track is a strong candidate for the best individual song.