February 25, 2009 by billie789
You’ve heard of the One Minute Manager? Well, this is the One Minute Album Review. The idea is write down what comes immediately to mind, not sit around and wax poetic and philosophically about things simple enough to describe in a minute.
As I found out just a few days ago, our good, good friend, Joe Bonamassa, has a new album out titled,” The Ballad of John Henry.”
This from Wiki:
“John Henry is an American folk hero, famous for having raced against a steam powered hammer and won, only to die in victory. He has been the subject of numerous songs, stories, plays, and novels.
Like other “Big Men” such as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, John Henry also served as a mythical representation of a group within the melting pot of the 19th-century working class. In the most popular version of the story, Henry is born into the world big and strong weighing 33 pounds. He grows to become the greatest “steel-driver” in the mid-century push to erect the railroads across the mountains to the West. When the owner of the railroad buys a steam-powered hammer to do the work of his mostly black driving crew, to save his job and the jobs of his men, John Henry challenges the owner to a contest: himself alone versus the steam hammer. John Henry beats the machine, but exhausted, collapses and dies.”
This story is about a large, powerful railroad laborer who happened to be African-American. The other famous John Henry is a Kentucky race horse, unless you’re thinking about the owner of the Boston Red Sox.
O.k., so Joe Bonamassa either fancies himself as a large, powerful black man with a rail sledge or he’s just awestruck and wanted to honor the legend. Or, life on The Road has emptied him out and he’s ready to collapse and die of exhaustion.
Let’s not think about this too much. Ruins the One Minute format. The album cover is cool. It tells a bit of a story in itself. Vintage, blues, the South, even the Old West.
Here’s my take:
Cut #1-The Ballad of John Henry
Ah, you can hear John Henry’s sledgehammer…bang, bang, bang,…wait a minute, that’s a throbbing in my temples as this thing plods along like a dinosaur with dumptrucks for shoes. A little too predictable for my tastes, really. Title tracks are giving me fits lately. They seem to be the weakest cut on a couple of albums I just purchased.
Classic Bonamassa 12-bar blues and it’s just plain-old, good stuff. Could be on any of his albums. Just a good piece of this musician showcasing what he does best. Kind of a signature-sounding piece.
Great, gritty, uptempo-toe-tapper. A little swamp, a little mud and you’re there. I can almost see a group of white folks in short-sleeved shirts standing on the old wooden dock, squinting into the sun (waiting for the shuttle to the riverboat casino!).
#4-Jockey Full of Bourbon
Cowboy drinking song. I’m just relieved it didn’t break out into “99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall.”
#5-Story of a Quarryman
You know, Bonamassa’s extreme work ethic is coming through on these titles. And his singular, strong and extreme riffs are chunking along on this tune. Again, great, gutsy guitar riff, but I’m left waiting at the bus stop for a ride.
#6- Lonesome Road Blues
Probably my favorite cut. Great tempo, you can’t ignore it; it picks you up at the bus stop and careens near the edge of the mountain roads, dust and dirt flying. And it’s fun!
A real departure from blues-rock standard fare. Much more toned down, homogenized, fluid and ready-for-prime time. Could be the soundtrack to a new drama about dysfunctional plastic surgeons or lawyers.
Ah, yes…The Beatles meet .38 Special.
#9-Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter
Way too commercial sounding for me. Horns…waddya gonna do? I know horns have a place, like marching bands, Motown and jazz. This cut doesn’t stop me from enjoying the CD, but this is a throw away. I want grit or I want silk. I don’t want a Visa card commercial.
#10-The Great Flood
A bit of a funeral. Sounds like pretty standard blues stuff and if you’re gonna listen to really good, standard blues stuff, this should be on your list.
Joe’s so good at this kinda slice o’ blues pie.
#11-From the Valley
I confess that I didn’t listen to the entire cut. What I heard was very entertaining acoustic “touch” playing. Reflective, somber, good stuff.
#12-As The Crow Flies
Again (too bad I’m forced to sprinkle my review vocabulary to comments like “again” with this particular project) it’s good, solid, vintage blues riffing. Not too intellectual, but neither are the blues, so it works adequately.
That’s it. Done. And I still have my self-respect. I’m just curious. How could this thing have been issued the past few days and already it’s marked down 33% on Amazon?
Oh, well. Hammer away, John Henry!
Now, I’m waiting for Jeff Beck’s new piece coming out soon that he described recently as “swampy, violent, adult metal.”
Jesus! That’s gonna be a killer!