Driving Towards The Daylight
As the man himself proclaims on self-penned opener ‘Dislocated Boy’, “All I need is my old guitar, and I’ll play you the best damn blues” – therein lies the edict that sums up Driving Towards The Daylight, the 13th studio record from blues/rock titan Joe Bonamassa. For this is what it purports to be – a back to basics blues record, and to an extent, that’s exactly what it is. But, for those of us who mainline this sort of business, we know better, for Bonamassa, with his penchant for rampant technicality, can hardly find himself going back to ‘basics’. Basics, for him, blow the rest of us out of the water.
So while this one isn’t a stripped back, raw blues record in the greater sense of the phrase, it is for Joe Bonamassa in that it isn’t an extravagant blow-out of a record, as many of his previous works have been. As well, over the past three or four studio productions, Bonamassa has been making a conscious effort to put more into the songwriting and arranging of the songs, as opposed to the ‘epic guitar’ side of things, which he is of course, a master at. As such, while Driving… does indeed let loose with some extremely fine guitar histrionics, it’s ultimately very thought out, it all fits and there’s nothing there purely for the sake of flash. He’s not the best songwriter around by any stretch (there are four originals on here, none of which light up the songwriting sky), but he’s put a lot of effort into it, and I can appreciate that.
As all good blues/rock should be then, this record is very riff-based. The ZZ Top-esque buzz of Buddy Miller’s ‘Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go’; the stoner rock feel of aforementioned opener ‘Dislocated Boy’; the fuzzed out jangle of Robert Johnson’s ‘Stones In My Passway’ (nigh on unrecognisable to the original, but with some tasty slide guitar) – all have you nodding your head, feeling the power and blues nous Bonamassa is channelling through this music. The title track and Bernie Marsden’s (Whitesnake) ‘A Place In My Heart’ deviate from the form somewhat, a little too mellow to intercede where they do, but ultimately, this is blues/rock on steroids, but having taken several valium at the same time. Make sense?
There’s also a solid, albeit safe, version of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Who’s Been Talking’, plus a version of Jimmy Barnes’ ‘Too Much Ain’t Enough Love’, featuring none other than the ebullient Mr. Barnes himself. It’s a solid version of the song, finishing off what is a solid record from Bonamassa, seeing him toning it down, ripping it up, getting back to his roots, even though for us mere mortals, those roots are pretty epic in their own right. A good one to start a party with.
Samuel J. Fell