I'll put my cards on the table. I generally give a wide berth to 'cover' albums made by artists who otherwise record their own songs for a living. At best, these releases do little more than remind you how good the original versions were, and at worst they seem like a cynical ploy to extract hard-earned cash from loyal fans.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and here's one of them.
If there's any justice to be found, this fine album should propel both Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart directly into the mainstream. Better than Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's much-lauded "Raising Sand" collaboration, this is spine-tingling stuff with Hart's gorgeous voice and Bonamassa's masterful guitar-playing truly a musical marriage made in heaven.
Far from slavishly copying the original arrangements, there's real imagination and innovation going on here. Following Plant & Krauss, and numerous others before them, there's the seemingly obligatory Tom Waits song - this time it's the irreverent "Chocolate Jesus", re-imagined in jaunty vaudeville style.
Delaney & Bonnie's "Well, Well" with Bonamassa duetting on vocals rips along furiously, with a down and dirty version of Bill Withers' "For My Friend" giving free rein to the duo's rockier sensibilities. More recent inspiration comes in the form of Melody Gardot's sultry "Your Heart Is As Black As Night".
A strikingly different and slowed-down version of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" is just one of a number of stirring performances to leave a lump in the throat, whilst church is ably represented by a truly soul-baring adaptation of Lowell Fulson's "Sinner's Prayer", recalling another memorable version recorded a few years back by B.B. King with the guesting Ray Charles.
But impressive as this all is, the top honours are reserved for the duo's interpretation of Brook Benton's "I'll Take Care of You" featuring a smoking Bonamassa guitar solo alongside an extraordinary vocal performance from Hart that runs the gamut of emotions all the way from unspeakably tender to tortured.
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