For his seventh studio album, guitar wiz Joe Bonamassa has chosen to work again with producer Kevin Shirley, who produced the highly successful and huge-sounding You & Me for Bonamassa in 2006. This outing, though, is far from a ditto session, with a much more acoustic feel and a greater focus on Bonamassa's singing, which unfortunately has been generally (and unfairly) overshadowed by his guitar playing. Bonamassa has also stepped up his songwriting (four of the 11 tracks here are originals; the rest are blues and hard rock covers) and cut way down on his clichés, delivering in the process his most varied and impressive album yet. The lead track, a version of Chris Whitley's "Ball Peen Hammer," is an atmospheric gem, as is the title tune, a cover of a song written by Bob Ezrin and Michael Kamen that first appeared on Tim Curry's solo debut album in 1978. Bonamassa's singing on both of these is wonderfully nuanced and shows he can do way more than just shout out blues-rockers. Also worth noting is his Dobro work on a fine cover of John Martyn's "Jelly Roll," and then there are the four originals -- "Dirt in My Pocket," "Richmond," "Around the Bend," and the striking "India" -- which show Bonamassa's continued growth and confidence as a songwriter. There are less of those flashy and jaw-dropping guitar leads on Sloe Gin (rest assured, he stretches out a few times on guitar, though), which is mostly a good thing, since it allows his increasing maturity as a writer and singer to shine through. This is a fine album, and one gets the distinct feeling that an even better one may be lurking just around the bend.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett
feat: Alvin Lee