In 2011, Joe Bonamassa was looking for new musical adventures on the side of his solo discography. Therefore, he became a deluxe sideman for the seventh album of California singer Beth Hart. That album, Don't Complain, was produced by Kevin Shirley, the producer behind Bonamassa's best albums. On this beautiful opus, the bluesman puts himself in service of the singer with an undeniable sense of nuance and finesse.
Excited by the experience, Joe has agreed to step on stage with Hart for a small European tour. He needed a guitar for the occasion, in the great tradition of sidemen who don't have their name on the poster but still want to get noticed. The compulsive collector therefore placed an order at the Gibson Custom Shop in 2012. On the basis of a R9, the replica of the 59 Burst, Joe has picked beautiful woods and asked that the fretboard bears his name. It is the first Gibson to bear that mark, before the Bonabyrd and the Blackburst were decorated in the same fashion. For the pickups, Bonamassa wanted the guitar to sound close to one of the Burst used for recording the album, and therefore picked a set of Seymour Duncans inspired by the PAFs in the famous Skinner Burst.
Judging by the pick traces, Joe must have enjoyed this guitar and he played it a lot on stage. Even better, this Les Paul is featured on the cover of the 2014 DVD Live In Amsterdam with Beth Hart. Knowing Bonamassa's arsenal, that guitar had to be very special to be featured on that cover.
Main guitar : Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959
An absolute “must-hear” track : Sloe Gin
It is not easy to invent yourself as an adult artist when you have been a child prodigy. Joe was Danny Gatton’s student and protégé to B.B. King before he was even old enough to drive a car, and was touring with the band Bloodline (with other child prodigies, the sons of stars like Miles Davis and Robby Krieger) before he could vote. But it all could have ended there. Indeed, the other members of Bloodline have all disappeared into the ether of show business. But Bonamassa has always had an unstoppable work ethic, and by dint of touring he ended up imposing his own sound and solo discography.
It all began in 2000 with A New Day Yesterday, a completely honest blues album on which guests like Leslie West, Greg Allman, and Rick Derringer accompanied the young musician. At the time, Bonamassa played Strats and Telecasters, and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence could still be in much of his phrasing. But little by little he found his own voice when he switched to a Les Paul and combined his Marshall Silver Jubilee with a few other boutique heads for a result as bluesy as it is fat and organic. It was also the time when producer Kevin Shirley began collaborating with Bonamassa. They first worked together on You & Me (2006) and still do to this day. Sloe Gin (2007) and Ballad Of John Henry (2009) are tracks that established Joe’s reputation as the saviour of the blues, the future of a style that was thought to be reserved for baby boomers on the eve of retirement.
Since then, Bonamassa has never slowed his touring pace. In fact, he has redoubled his inventiveness to vary his shows, whether in a tribute concert to Muddy Waters and Holwin’ Wolf, a tribute tour to the three Kings of Blues, or to the British Blues Boom. He also plays on the albums of singer Beth Hart as well as with the bands Black Country Communion (alongside bassist and singer Glenn Hughes) and Rock Candy Funk Party. At the same time, the collector’s instinct of the man who was born with a guitar in his hands (his father owns a store) has only intensified, to the point where he owns about ten sunbursts, two korina Flying Vs, and a staggering number of rare instruments. However, those guitars are not just stowed away in a safe place. They go on the road with Joe. After all, that’s what they were made for.