Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa, Don't Explain (Full Album Review)

bethandjoewebBeth Hart and Joe Bonamassa

Record Label: J & R Adventures (Joe Bonamassa and Roy Weisman)

Release Date: September 26th UK and Europe; September 27th US.

Beth Hart (vocals)
Joe Bonamassa (guitar, vocals on "Well, Well")
Blondie Chaplin (guitar)
Carmine Rosas (bass)
Arlan Scheirbaum (keyboards)
Anton Fig (drums, percussion)

This is the band that was assembled for Joe Bonamassa's (2009) number one blues album, The Ballad of John Henry.


Album Summary:

bethjoecdwebThis is an album of blues, soul tracks that have been re-worked using Beth Hart's powerful vocals, which she crafted to pay homage to the masters of Etta James, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. Joe Bonamassa continues to embrace his legendary guitar talent and carefully places razor sharp guitar solos, accents, blues riffs and soul rhythms to these songs. This duo, supported by a fabulous band of musicians who have played with Joe Bonamassa before, created a piece of work that is a contemporary take on traditional blues and soul records, while being respectful of their integrity. Kevin Shirley is the producer, guiding this work and challenging the artists to realize their visions. In a word, it is exquisite. Don't Explain is a welcome addition to any rock, blues, jazz or soul collection.

Track by Track:

1. Sinner's Prayer.

This has been covered several times, with the original by either Lowell Fulson (1950) or Ray Charles (1957) often together with BB King. Joe blasts the sound barrier with his unmistakable blues riffs, while Hart brings a heartfelt plea for forgiveness that is soul wrenching.

2. Chocolate Jesus.

Tom Waits' secret form of worship is picked up with a cafe style tempo with Beth and Joe's rendition of this jazz/soul classic. It has the tone of the song "Fever" because of its wit and the phrases that snap you to attention. Beth is genius, give her chocolate, please.

3. Your Heart Is As Black As Night.

Beth Hart is known in the rock world for her wailing edgy voice. She was challenged by this material, as it is noted that Kevin Shirley chose her to perform on this record because he knew her voice could handle the varied soul history that would be revisited. When Hart bellows gentle notes, it makes the stronger phrases stand out and shows instrumental control.

4. For My Friends.

There is all kind of talk about this album; rock, soul, blues. What about the funk? We want the funk! Well, the very funky guitar line with a heavy bass comes through on this song. This Bill Withers tune is titled, For My Friend. I can't imagine that they've added the 's' to make the word "friend" plural by accident. The song becomes larger than life in the magnificent match of Bonamassa and Hart as both of their strengths come charging through with loyalty to each other.

5. Don't Explain.

Billie Holiday's swoon of forgiveness for the lover who treats her wrong is risen from the archive with this masterpiece title track. This whole album is impeccably produced, and this song is its centerpiece. Billie Holiday's blues voice has a sweet edge that highlights a note and then lets it float. Beth Hart brought her signature style to this song, but she paid respect to Holiday, by keeping this subtle quality. She curves her voice, letting it rise and fall and then rise again, becoming a muted echo. Joe's restrained use of soft chords and riffs on the fringes of the phrases brings his intellect into the mix. His guitar soars, especially on this track, which shows that not only is he talented, but he always does what is best for the song. The traditional instrumentation, bass and orchestra pieces are a well of support for this production, keeping its elegance, with a contemporary move forward. Maybe we can get Beth to sing 'Some Other Spring,' if we ask her nicely.  

6. I'd Rather Go Blind.

Oh, Etta! As of this date, you are still with us and we are blessed. Lucky for us. And lucky for us, Joe Bonamassa listens to music when he can't sleep, which is what inspired this album's compilation throw back to begin with. He wrote to Shirley in the middle of the night suggesting that they do a soul album with Beth who agreed (press release). Lucky for us, also, Beth Hart takes her job very seriously, causing her stellar recording of this to takes its place in history. Her voice is bold when it needs to be and vulnerable as to fit the love story in the song. Joe supports the track with subtle blues rock phrasing that keeps the song on course. Like so many songs on this album, it builds up to a magnificent peak, and then quiets down to a beautiful solo. Really fascinating work here that makes the original even better !

7. Something's Got A Hold On Me.

Another Etta James work that has been charmed. This is a high energy, hand raising, bootie shakin classic. Beth and Joe's version makes it sound like it could be a Sam and Dave original. Dancing fun, call and response, when soul take us to church. Say hey !

8. I'll Take Care of You.

Brook Benton. Piano jazz opens this sultry mist. Van Morrison covered this song in a cool, almost monotone fashion, as the track lends itself to that style. Beth and Joe let the song escalate, with Beth screaming out her soul riff which invites Joe to meet the maker with a blazing guitar solo.

9. Well, Well.

Delaney Bramlett. This is the only duet on the album that includes Joe Bonamassa's vocals. The guitar work to me, sounds very much like a Lay Down Sally, Clapton piece. A really great vibe of upbeat rockabilly. Beth does some scat vocals which are a lot of fun and the harmonies are a mark of a great team.

10. Ain't No Way.

The opener to this song, reminds me of "In the Light" or "I'm Gonna Crawl," by Zeppelin, deep and ethereal. Then it goes on to rise up and grasp the rest of the scales that are left and twist into a great tune that unfolds for Beth to introduce her moaning rendition of this great Aretha Franklin song. It is in a lower key, but there is a great balance of blues guitar, quiet drum effects, keyboard work and orchestral production coming together.

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~ Long live the women of the Blues ~


For writer, Stephanie Hussey's commentary on Don't Explain, Click Here.

Out On The Tiles

Big Boy Bloater & The Limits - Live At The 100 Club, London 15/05/2016

Big Boy Bloater


There are two very good reasons why it's always worth to go to a Big Boy Bloater and The Limit's gig. The first is the contagious good feeling this band is able to express through his music and the band leader's happy, spirited eyes. The second is to get the chance to listen live to the tracks of a great album like Luxury Hobo, the new record of this formidable band.

The historic 100 Club is packed with many BBB fans coming from all different part of the country, from the North of England to even Wales. Big Boy Bloater & The Limits feel immediately that there are special vibes in the house tonight and don't lose a second in launching the positive energy that comes from their talent as musicians and BBB's robust, powerful and graspy voice into tonight's show. The openers I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends) and Robot Girlfriend take the crowd already in a dancing mood and lead the fans to believe that this will be a very special night of music.

Big Boy Bloater & The Limits are a perfect sounding music machine. Many have got the tendency to forget that the Big Boy Bloater, together with being an extraordinary singer, is also an excellent guitarist and he blends perfectly the many sides of his talent in the tracks Devil's Tail and All Things Considered.

The Limits are in great form tonight too. Dan Edwards on keys, Matt Cowley on drums and Steven Oates on bass provide power, fabulous musical improvisation and a solid backbone to their band leader throughout the whole show (Dan Edwards gets even an impromptu, collective Happy Birthday wish from the whole crowd).

Once most of the songs of the new album Luxury Hobo have been performed and highly appreciated by the enthusiastic crowd at the venue tonight, Big Boy Bloater revisits part of his back catalogue, reaching the climax of the show by performing classics of his extensive repertoire such as Rocket Surgery, Sweet & Brown and Big Fat Trap.

The irresistible combo of R&B, alternative rock and soul is something that Big Boy Bloater & The Limits know very well how to put together and tonight is no exception. They feel the crowd is hot enough by now and launch themselves in a pyrotechnic, fast tempo finale with Not Cool Man, the closing track of their new studio album.

After 90 minutes of musical entertainment at its finest, the fans desperately want an encore. A big cheer from the crowd welcomes back the band on stage, where a highly energetic version of Devils & Not Angels closes a wonderful night of music.

Tonight's concert proved that the secret of this band stands not just into their incredible artistry as musicians but also into the fact they are able to speak to different age ranges through their eclectic music offer. Big Boy Bloater & The Limits came and conquered London for one night only and they certainly did it in style.


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato



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