Just how Irish and British are the blues anyway…and did you know that was even a thing until just now? Joe Bonamassa is only 45 but he’s already earned a reputation as one of the greatest modern blues players of all time and he has a unique take on blues music.
At just twelve years of age, Joe was already opening for B.B. King. Since then, he’s earned Grammy nominations, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Blues charts, and even created his own record label that does exactly what it implies: “Keeping the Blues Alive” (Records).
But besides playing and promoting other artists, what else does Joe mean to blues music? Who are some of his inspirations?
Born Far Outside of the Delta
No wonder B.B. King famously said, “Blues don’t necessarily have to be sung by a person that came from Mississippi as I did…” because there are many artists far outside the delta that have innovated in the blues genre.
Joe Bonamassa was born in New York and grew up listening to British and Irish blues rock, as well as American blues, from the likes of Eric Clapton, to John Mayall, Paul Kossoff, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rory Gallagher.
While he did consider B.B. King an influence, he also admired the nuances of British blues and how it differed from American blues. He was trained on guitar by Danny Gatton at the age of eleven and started his own band called Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa at the age of twelve.
His first band didn’t quite reach legend status, but by 2000 he had established himself as a skilled guitarist and released his debut studio album, A New Day Yesterday.
What’s Joe Bonamassa Doing in 2022?
Joe is still doing wonders for blues music, releasing albums like Time Clocks and the Grammy-nominated Royal Tea. He also collaborates with other blues musicians like Dion DiMucci’s Stomping Ground.
He has a new podcast on Spotify called Life From Nerdville where he talks about music and answers questions from some of his fans. The new YouTube channel features many of his songs, albums, and special behind-the-scenes videos.
Keeping the Blues Alive
Joe is currently touring the United States throughout November 2022 and will return in spring of 2023.
But what’s getting Joe even more attention these days is his new “Keeping the Blues Alive Records” label, which allows him to work with friends in the industry, and showcase new blues musicians to the world.
He got to work with big names like Van Morrison, Jeff Beck, Paul Simon, and Bruce Springsteen. But perhaps an even more rewarding experience was producing a new album by Larry McCray called Blues Without You.
In 2022, his record studio also produced work by Robert Jon & The Wreck, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd – all of which were produced by Bonamassa himself.
He is certainly “keeping the blues alive,” by doing what he’s always done – expanding and diversifying the blues genre with international flavors.
Mississippi Delta Blues
On his podcast, Joe often speaks highly of Mississippi Delta Blues, and the influences of B.B. King and other artists of the 20th Century. While of course there have been many blues artists outside of the Delta area, many listeners still have a special place in their heart for songs inspired by and coming out of the delta area.
Visit Mississippi has an interesting take about the history of the Mississippi Delta Blues and it’s 1800s-era roots.
Joe Bonamassa’s influence on modern blues has been phenomenal. He’s not only keeping it alive by promoting traditional and new acts, but is also helping the genre to evolve into the new century by bringing his own sensibilities to his guitar.