So It's Like That

Joe Bonamassa

J&R Adventures, 2002

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Early in his career, Joe Bonamassa was positioned as yet another young (white) bluesman, in the tradition of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang, the heir to the Stevie Ray Vaughan mantle from the ’80s and the British blues players of the ’60s and ’70s before him. It was a title he had yet to earn, for although nobody questioned his technical skill, his reliance on covers and nascent songwriting positioned him only as an artist with promise.

His third album You & Me would start bringing in acclaim, but by that time Joe was already looking ahead to branching out his sound (the uneven Sloe Gin); it wasn’t until 2009 that everything he had done over the course of the decade coalesced into the excellent Ballad Of John Henry my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 and the accompanying Royal Albert Hall concert, which was the man’s first peak as a songwriter, not just a very good guitarist and incendiary live showman.

With the light of what was to come, the early JB albums lack that sort of individual sound; they’re good, of course, but they’re nothing you haven’t heard before. So It’s Like That falls into this same mix, whereupon the songs are the same sort of blues/rock you can hear on any number of similar Southern rock albums, or a good live bar band on a Saturday night. It’s good music that is played well… but it’s nothing you haven’t heard.

To me—as nearly the sole reviewer of JB on these Vault pages—JB is at his best when he’s in dramatic storytelling mode and/or guitar hero mode. There’s little of that on display here. The title track and “Lie #1” chug along nicely but generically while the acoustic “Never Say Goodbye” and the Elvis cover “Waiting For Me” don’t really leave much of an impression. The songs frequently call other artists to mind; you will hear some Skynyrd there, some Gov’t Mule or Drive-By Truckers there, some SRV in spots, and so forth, but it’s not individual or unique, just another good blues-rock album.

But this is JB, of course, so there are some great moments here, especially the pulse-racing “Under The Radar,” the solo on “Sick In Love” and the 10-minute “Pain And Sorrow,” in which the band loosens up, jams a bit, adding an extra step in the drums above and beyond a normal beat that jolts the song to life under Joe’s myriad guitar textures. Rather than just a showy solo, he lets the notes breathe, sometimes pausing before the next one, a sort of David Gilmour approach (Billy Corgan would do something similar on “United States” when Smashing Pumpkins reformed in 2007). It was the first time that JB (on record, anyway) started to show he was more than just another generic white bluesman who loved classic rock, and is worth seeking out as the start of the throughline that connects this to John Henry to Blues Of Desperation. Shame the same can’t be said for the rest of the album.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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