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

Boston Music Awards 2011 New Artist of the Year : MOUFY !

Photos by Micah Gummel.

The Boston Music Awards is an exciting event that has been running for over 25 years. It was at the Liberty Hotel and the magnificent venue encapsulated a wide range of great artists that night. For complete coverage and venue photos click here.



While researching the local bands on the nominee list, Moufy was an artist that stood out to me among the other nominated greats in rap and hip hop. I just loved his sound and energetic spirit.  I have been following rap since it started with Sylvia Robinson's label on Sugar Hill and genuinely mourned her death this year. With the history of rap and hip hop still ringing in my head, I was aware that this young artist came from a region that was not well known for this form of music. However, listening to Moufy gave me hope that the sound which had made its way through the urban streets for decades would continue to be true to the roots, because he puts his own spin on it, which ironically, brought it all back to the start.

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We watched the announcement of the awards and the experience was like witnessing the ball drop in Times Square. The excitement built up and the Moufy win brought cheers throughout the swank brick hotel that collected music lovers from all over New England. Once the announcements were done we ran to catch this rising star.

While waiting for Moufy to arrive, DJ Hustle Simmons was set up with old school funk and disco. Stevie Wonder's, Sir Duke, Earth, Wind and Fire's, Got To Get You Into My Life, Prince's Wanna Be Your Lover. Deep house music from the 1980's blared a familiar mix of club music and ended with Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, Michael Jackson, tunes that kept people moving and targeted a wide range of ages in this crowd.

Jam'n 94.5 Boston announced Moufy and plugged their show 'The Launch Pad'. Moufy was gracious and then tore into all Boston related songs as a celebration for tonight. Twist It and Light It, Throw My 3's, Boston Lights and more.

The Liberty Room was packed. Moufy mixed with the crowd with non-stop energy that was infectious. We sung the lyrics to the point where you could barely hear Moufy himself. He was down and serious with getting his message of loyalty to New England and Boston. He raised us up to join together in unity as New England-ers. It was a wild party with positive vibes that did not stop. Most importantly, as serious as he is about the message, he smiles and emits that he just loves this music to the core. I can't imagine him doing anything else, he was completely in the zone. I sent his music to my writer friend Stephanie Hussey and she said the best line of "We In The Building" is 'It just feels so good to be us!'

At age 20, this man is just looking at the start of his career. My hope for him is that he keeps on track with what he is doing best, bringing people together with regional music that obviously means a lot to him. Lyrics that reflect the stories that are important to life. Music is the universal language that unites us and artists who reach for the higher ground will find it, as long as they don't give it up to the hype.




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