Don't Explain - with Joe Bonamassa (2011)
Sinner's Prayer/Chocolate Jesus/Your Heart Is As Black As Night/For My Friends/Don't Explain/I'd Rather Go Blind/Something's Got A Hold On Me/I'll Take Care Of You/Well, Well/Ain't No Way
This is the first of three (thus far) collaborations between Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa and is made up of cover versions. No matter, though, as the quality is top notch. The two of them complement each other perfectly. Sure, you can pretty much predict what you are going to get but it is none the worse for it, and the sound quality is excellent too - big, bold and bassy.
Ray Charles's Sinner's Prayer is a slow grind blueser that sees Hart taking a robust vocal lead and beseeching "Lord have mercy on me" in true blues fashion. It cooks and bubbles in slow-burning style from beginning to end. The short and comparatively jaunty Chocolate Jesus has an almost waltz-y beat to it and an infectious appeal. It is a Tom Waits song.
The tempo slows down on the late night smoky smoulder of Melody Gardot's jazz number Your Heart Is As Black As Night, which is full of embittered sensuality. The chunky For My Friends shows off Bonamassa's powerful guitaring (is that a word?) in the most vibrant way so far. Check out the solo at the end. The pair's blues rock approach transforms the Bill Withers song completely.
Billie Holiday's Don't Explain is dealt with competently by a sleepy-voiced Hart and then we get a superb eight minute plus rendering of Etta James's I'd Rather Go Blind. The pair of them make it their own (well, not quite but you know what I mean - they do a great job). Hart's gritty, earthy white blues voice is a knockout on this one. The girl can sing the blues, that's for sure. Joe's mid-song solo is peerless, of course.
Another Etta James song, Something's Got A Hold On Me starts with some somewhat irritating, slowed-down vocals before it suddenly starts to rock, big time gospel style, on the album's most upbeat cut. Bobby Bland's I'll Take Care Of You is a slow serving of bluesy soul that once again features some killer guitar.
Delaney and Bonnie's Well, Well is appealingly rocking, with a rhythmic drum sound. It is one of my favourites from the album. Aretha Franklin's Ain't No Way is a supremely dignified and suitably soulful way to bring things to a close.
Quality blues rock from two fine exponents of the genre.
Also recorded with Joe Bonamassa is this 2018 album, which ploughs the same bluesy furrow:-
Bang Bang Boom Boom (2012)
Baddest Blues/Bang Bang Boom Boom/Better Man/Caught Out In The Rain/Swing My Thing Back Around/With You Everyday/Thru The Window Of My Mind/Spirit Of God/There In Your Heart/The Ugliest House On The Block/Everything Must Change/I'd Rather Go Blind
I have to admit that I don't know much about Beth Hart's music. She is a Los Angeles-born blues rocker and has been releasing music since 1993, when she was twenty-one.
I came across the title track of this 2012 album (her sixth) as a recommendation on my streaming service. I liked it so I thought I would check the album out.
It is solid blues rock and she is part of the burgeoning ranks of female guitar playing bluesers such as Joanna Connor, Grace Potter, Susan Tedeschi, Samantha Fish and Joanne Shaw Taylor among others. I have to admit that I have a bit of a problem with Beth's voice at times - her diction and accent grate on me slightly (it sounds a bit contrived to me) but her playing is top quality, as is that of her band. She wrote or co-wrote all the songs too, apart from the bonus live track at the end. It suffers a little from CD bloat, for me, and the fact that most of the tracks are relatively similar, but that doesn't mean that they're not any good, though.
Baddest Blues is a smoky, slow late night blues ballad to open with that bursts out powerfully mid-song with some big guitar parts and a rousing chorus.
Bang Bang Boom Boom is a catchily jaunty number with a perky slightly waltzy beat to it. Beth's voice is fine on this one - gritty and lazily soulful.
Better Man is a power chord-driven chunky rock number with another instantly appealing chorus.
The lengthy Caught Out In The Rain is a delicious serving of slow, grinding, sexy blues, featuring some incendiary guitar chops and another excellent vocal - maybe I'm wrong about the voice! When I listen to the fifties-ish Swing My Thing Back Around, however, I start to disagree as Beth sings "I'm poiting (putting) my foit (foot) down". It just irritates me - sorry. Never mind, all is forgiven on the superbly soulful strains of With You Everyday, a Memphis-style slow burner that is possibly the best track on the album.
Thru The Window Of My Mind is excellent too, with an infectious beat to it and more soully ambience. Nice piano on it too. It has a very 2010s poppy feel in its chorus. Spirit Of God is a brassy, Elton John-esque number with a catchy handclappy, gospelly bit near the end.
There In Your Heart is a piano-driven, robust ballad while another of my favourites is the vaguely reggae-influenced The Ugliest House On The Block. Great drumming on this one. the album ends with the slow ballad Everything Must Change and then a real treat in the live performance, featuring Jeff Beck, of I'd Rather Go Blind. Beth does her best Janis Joplin on this one.
Yes, it is all a bit samey, but it is a good samey.