Let battle commence as two tribes go to war
The first line nails it.
Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa are precisely 24 seconds into “Give It Everything You Got” when Hart’s deep vocals intone: “I said, well now’s your chance, if you wanna dance….”
And with that, we are off, running and brother, no one’s looking back.
It actually doesn’t matter that the song is actually a cover of an Edgar Winter cut from the early 1970’s, because Hart in particular owns this and the other nine songs that make up “Black Coffee” in a way that renders pretty much all other versions of these tracks superfluous. Indeed, so good is she here that even a great of modern blues like Bonamassa finds himself regularly upstaged.
The pair have done this type of thing, that is to say offer different takes on (mostly) old soul and blues songs before. Both on “Seesaw” from four or so years back, as well as 2011’s “Don’t Explain” and 2014’s Live in Amsterdam affair, so you do almost know what to expect. Two absolute forces of nature going at it and looking for supremacy. In actual fact, we’ll call it a draw because so perfect are the two of them together.
“Black Coffee” is very possibly the best of the albums they’ve done together, sounding so full of life and so skilfully is it done.
Recorded over five days with what amounts to Bonamassa’s band from the acoustic gigs and his usual horn section. His regular producer Kevin Shirley is at the helm too, and whatever he did to extract such performances from those involved, we probably don’t need to know – just commend him for doing so.
Etta James’ “Damn Your Eyes” begins with a solo that is unmistakably Joe, and Hart sounds both fragile and as hard as nails at the same time, while the title track (an old Ike And Tina Turner song) becomes a southern rock stomper.
There’s a couple of dips into jazz territory. First “Lullaby Of The Leaves” initially seems stripped down, before opening out with some incredible guitar work, then the absolute highlight here, “Why Don’t You Do Right?” takes us on a walk down Boardwalk Empire. It is easy to picture Hart singing this in the prohibition era in some smoky ballroom such is the incredible vibe created.
An astonishingly varied record takes in fire and brimstone gospel with “Saved” as a real frenzy is created, and “Sitting On Top Of The World” is pretty much just a vehicle for the talent of the musicians involved here to be showcased.
“Joy” – a Lucinda Williams cover – is sultry in these hands. The overriding emotion here is one of fear for the person that dared to take Hart’s happiness. So primal is she here that whoever it was best sleep with one eye open until the end of time.
There is a different feel altogether about “Soul On Fire” and its sun drenched balladry shines, while a soulful flavour – and even a dash of reggae – informs “Addicted” (originally by an Austrian trip-hop band) as if to prove nothing was off limits here.
Covers albums only work if they have nothing much at all to do with the original versions. This is a world away from the dreadful tribute bands with those awful “funny” names. This is some of the best musicians of their generation having fun, yes, but interpreting things as only they could. For “Black Coffee” this incredibly sweet – and a damn sight tastier than the Costa I buy every day.
The post REVIEW: BETH HART AND JOE BONAMASSA – BLACK COFFEE (2018) appeared first on MaximumVolumeMusic.
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