Hard-to-believe, but this already is his seventh solo album. Bonamassa performs his spezial mix of hard rocking blues and ballads. For the first time he's throwing in some acoustic bits and pieces.
In the liner notes of Sloe Gin
, emerging guitar great Joe Bonamassa explains that one of his objectives is to experiment with acoustic elements he first encountered while listening to Rod Stewart's earliest work. "I think the heavy blues and acoustic mix well together," he writes, and the inviting variety of the disc's 11 tracks--from the rousing electric rave-up of the title track to the closing, tabla-propelled acoustic instrumental--persuasively underscores his point. Bonamassa is a major talent with a growing following, and as his fan base inevitably expands it may become difficult for him to keep everyone happy. Hardcore blues devotees no doubt will yearn for Bonamassa to stay perpetually plugged in, but in the long term that would be a disservice to his broad range of skills. Bonamassa rocks formidably and convincingly on "Dirt in My Pocket" (a bristling original composition), the title track (well suited for air guitar), and his Clapton-esque rendering of John Mayall's "Another Kind of Love." Yet his softer works suggest that he sounds a little more comfortable and natural--vocally, at least--on the acoustic tracks. His retooled version of "Around the Bend" (his first take on this original composition is found on an earlier release) is an engaging, pastoral gem, and his paean to his upstate New York home ("Richmond") is perhaps this disc's most memorable selection. Bonamassa knows the blues (at the time of this release, he was the youngest member on the board of the Blues Foundation), but he also knows how to rock and how to sagaciously, artfully ease off the gas. --Terry Wood