In 2007, Joe Bonamassa titled his album after a Bob Ezrin song. In 2009, he named his seventh studio album The Ballad of John Henry after one of the most enduring tales in American folk music. The difference between these two songs should signal a great difference between the two albums and that's true, to a certain extent. The Ballad of John Henry is heavy on myth-making that translates to heavy guitars on several occasions, particularly on the epic six-minute title track, whose roiling minor-key riffs, orchestrations, and excursions into acoustic instruments are closer to prog than blues. While the rest of the record never gets as overblown as this, it shares similar thick sonics and a sober sensibility, an approach that treats Ike & Tina Turner's "Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter" as sacred text and straightens out Tom Waits' "Jockey Full of Bourbon." This sobriety means that The Ballad isn't a whole lot of fun -- when Bonamassa sings that he's "Feelin' Good," it feels a bit like drudgery -- but this dogged approach does give the album some self-serious heft, adding the impression of weight that fits a record that feels like a summation of his strengths. His guitar and voice carry equal weight as he runs through SRV-styled slow blues, a shuffle or two, acoustic numbers, covers, and originals -- everything that he's dabbled with on previous albums is pulled together here, making for his most varied album and possibly his best, even if that heaviness means that it's not necessarily the easiest to enjoy.
Performance CreditsJoe Bonamassa Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Blondie Chaplin Rhythm Guitar
Anton Fig Drums
Carmine Rojas Bass
Lee Thornburg Brass
David Woodford Saxophone
Rick Melick Keyboards,Background Vocals
Bogie Bowles Drums
Technical CreditsTom Waits Composer
Tony Joe White Composer
Joe Bonamassa Composer,Liner Notes
Leslie Bricusse Composer
Bruce Brody Composer
Anthony Newley Composer
Kevin Shirley Producer
Greg Sutton Composer
Lee Thornburg Arranger
Aillene Bullock Composer
Dennis Friel Art Direction,Illustrations
Jared Kvitka Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Ballad of John Henry based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
This is not straight ahead pure blues but blues influenced and one of the best I've heard in a long time. You take your chances when you buy a CD that has a hot guitar player. Are the songs just going to be exercises in how fast he can play? Can he sing a tune? Well Joe does it all quite well. His guitar playing is original and emotional. His singing is the real bonus here. I love his voice. And his version of the Tom Waits song "Jockey Full of Bourbon" is inspired. Great production too which makes the guitar sound different on each song. Way to go Joe!
From the opening title track through the whole CD, Joe reaffirms why he is called the best Blues/Rock guitarist of our time. Guitar is what he is all about - he makes those strings sing to us with "Stop" & "From the Valley" - but this album also shows us he has a voice. A voice that can make us feel the bluesy pain of "The Great Flood" then take us to the sunshine with "Feelin' Good." Joe's bass player, Carmine Rojas, who added his strength to many of the hits of Rod Stewart, David Bowie & Tina Turner through the late 80s to 90s, has found a perfect showcase for his talents with Bonamassa, as is shown on all of the music they have released together. If you have never heard their music, check out "Sloe Gin". I have been fortunate to see Joe Bonamassa (and Carmine) performing live in San Jose and Italy in 2008 and again in Denver in 2009. Meeting them face to face reveals they are not just great musicians, but good people who appreciate their fans. I have "Ballad of John Henry" on my I-pod, my car CD player and forever in my head. It haunts my mind in a wonderful way.
Joey B. His blues has got into my life. If electric blues is your bag this release is the whole package.
Each new CD that makes just gets better and better. I can't get enough of his music.