The Buzz Builds For Black Country


February 22, 2010 by esarsea

The buzz continues to build around Black Country, a new “Super Group” consisting of Joe Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian.

The following article is reprinted from the Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley:

Seems a bit funny to title an interview piece with the words of someone other than my interview’s subject, but it feels right, and those are the words of no less an expert than super-producer Kevin Shirley. And that is what Kevin is saying about Black Country, Glenn Hughes’s new band, with axeslinger extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian. The producer is taking a very active, hands-on role for this record, overseeing the songwriting, arrangements, and generally serving as field marshall.

I spoke with Glenn at length yesterday about this exciting new band. Here’s what he had to say:

“I had a bit of a vision, a dream,” Hughes begins, “I had a follow-up to last year’s record (the excellent First Underground Nuclear Kitchen, F.U.N.K.) fully written and ready to go, but there had to be a hold up to the follow-up. As you know, I played with Joe at the Guitar Center show in November, shortly after I had wrapped up my world tour. He had asked me to come up and do a couple of my old tunes, Mistreated, and Medusa, and as we played I looked over at Joe, he back at me, and I said that’s it; this is a band!” And so it was born, Black Country.

There’s ample proof of the chemistry shared between the two over on YouTube, and it is pretty obvious that this is not just two successful solo acts getting together for a one-off project. Black Country is their new group, a band, a tribe from and of the black country of England, the home of both Hughes and Bonham.

“I’ve known Jason since he was a child, what is he? about mid-forties now, and we’ve played together through the years, on occasion, and when we started playing with Joe and Derek, he just smiled.”

Hughes points out that in spite of himself and Bonamassa both having very busy careers, this record may upset things a bit.

“There will be proper touring, not just going out for a few shows here and there. My voice gets stronger as I work, and this will be a touring band. We’ve got all the songs written, titles are in place, and Joe has clearly told me, ‘I want to be in a rock band,’ so he’s got some Zeppelin in him, and some times he’s as bluesy as Kossoff (Paul Kossoff, legendary guitarist for Paul Rodgers’ Free). He’s singing and writing great stuff as well.”

Bonamassa has been headed down the road to rock for some time, and Hughes is finally returning to a full-on rock approach, something fans and fellow rockers have been clamoring about for years, though Glenn has kept moving in a positive motion towards his funky proclivities, and his own creative path in lieu of chasing the easy rock dollars.

“Tony, you have to understand I get asked to do huge tours, and to join big bands every year, and I’ve chosen to pursue my own projects, but now it’s seems fated that this band happen. You’ve got Chickenfoot, Them Crooked Vultures, and while I avoid the term supergroup, this IS a band, and we’ve obviously got some good company.

“We’re as bombastic as The Who, and as bluesy as Free, but we are doing some different kinds of things in terms of structure, and tempo: 7/8, 6/8, even 5/8 time, so it’s not just a few chords and out. Joe’s just written a song that is just blowing me away. He sings a couple, I sing a bunch, and there’s a few where we’re both singing. We originally had figured mid 2011 for the release, but here we are we’ve got it written, we’ll have it tracked by the middle of March, around the 17th, and we should be done with vocals, and some overdubbing by April the 10th, just before Easter. So, it makes sense for it to come out sooner and now it should be out around September of this year.

“We recorded basic tracks for some of the songs on January 3rd and 4th, and we didn’t even get a playback, we just packed them off, and didn’t hear them until the next few days,and they were amazing. We’ve got some epics, I will say that. And, we’ve cut them live, with me using an old P-Bass, all of us together in one room. I don’t want to be that guy, saying supergroup. But if you had told me back last February, that I’d be in a rock band, I’m not so sure. What we’ve got is not what I have done, not what Joe’s done, but something tremendously exciting, and brand new.

“Kevin Shirley is calling it, ‘viral rock’ and ‘beyond beautiful,’ and coming from Shirley this is high praise, indeed. “You know, Tony, it’s funny; at one point, the critics are calling me horrible things because of bad habits and vices, and now they knock me for being mr. health nut, the higher power guy, but this band and record seems to have everyone rooting it on, the time just feels right.”

We spoke for a long time about Glenn’s past, his work with Trapeze, Deep Purple, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath and his famous bout with addiction, yet so much has been written about this elsewhere that there seems little benefit in my spending time on it here, but here’s where Glenn left that subject:

“I am almost 60, playing with a 32-year-old guitarist, but you’d never know to listen. We are hitting at full velocity (not a bad title, there) and don’t think I don’t feel fear I am an alcoholic and addict in recovery and I’m riddled with fear every day of those demons returning, but I’m very lucky. I will tell you this I hit the next note with absolutely no fear, and for that 90 minutes to two hours that I am onstage every night, I am completely without fear”

I wanted to include this because it shows a bit of the character of this immensely talented, yet humble and generous man. I’ve rarely had a more pleasurable conversation with lifelong friends, let alone this stranger whom I’ve only known from afar, but Glenn is as easy to chat with as an old school-chum. That he admits the frailty and vulnerabilities that face anyone in recovery only goes to display the man’s humanity, and speaks of his honesty.

I spoke to Glenn about his bass playing, which is melodic and acrobatic, as well as rock-solid.

“Well, Tony, my playing is getting better. I play at least 5 to 6 hours a day, and I’m not one of these guys from the 70s that chooses to sit back. The more I sing the better I’m able, and my voice gets strongest mid-tour. My guitar playing is getting a lot better of late, also.”

This is coming from a fellow who played for a quarter of a million people in his early twenties at California Jam with the biggest hard-rock band in the world at the time, Deep Purple. This truly marks the graduation of rock into serious music, as its elder statesmen continue to grow and develop even relatively late in their careers.

Glenn and I spoke about other topics in a lot of detail, and I’ll have more of his words in future postings as the band and record progresses. I’m going to follow this one closely as I think it is going to prove to be the surprise of the year, in the midst of a year that is shaping up as the best year for hard rock yet in this century. So I want to keep the focus on Black Country for today.

Read more on Black Country here

18 thoughts on “The Buzz Builds For Black Country

  1. Da Goddess says:

    First off, I can’t wait for the new JB album. The cuts I’ve heard from it have really piqued my interest. Secondly, Joe taking on a rock gig and doing something different is a pretty good move. It keeps his brand nice, neat, and tidy in its place and it gives him a very creative outlet under a different, yet equally distinguishable brand.

    • esarsea says:

      I agree about the new JB album. When I heard “Blue and Evil” I really, REALLY liked it. Good stuff for sure. Looking forward to hearing the rest of it. I’ve been listening to Planet Rock online quite a bit lately, and they’re playing a lot of cuts off it.

  2. torqdog says:

    For a minute I was confusing Black Rock with Black Country. Sounds like it’s gonna be a fun ride for Joe and a fun show to see. I just hope he remembers that we love him here in Reno too. The closest his upcoming tour has him playing is a thursday night gig in Sacramento, impossible for Viv & I to attend.

    Whatever happened to those good times at the Garage? (rhetorical question, don’t answer)

  3. Da Goddess says:

    Hey, wanna talk about being unlove..ed, Vegas isn’t even registering on the tour schedule. Nor is San Diego. Which is fine. However, it’s been long enough since I’ve attended a Joe show, I’m kind of getting that itch. I’ve seen just about everyone else and it only serves to whet the appetite. (Doesn’t help that the new album sounds amazing)

  4. Stu says:

    Looks like the buzz is going to be building for something other than “Black Country” as that name has been scrapped. Probably a good call; following up a record named “Black Rock” with a record by “Black Country” was going to confuse (or mislead) a lot of people I think…

    • torqdog says:

      Yeah…… as I indicated in my first post, I was a little confused for a minute…….. which really ain’t bad considering I’m pretty confused most of the time anyway. :-o

  5. Bill says:

    Perhaps the name was scrapped because there’s already a band by that name and someone forgot to check. Seems unlikely that no one checked. I can forgive the guys, but Kevin Shirely surely should have shown some showmanship in shaking the name tree (say that fast 5 times).

  6. Bill says:

    Here’s one now!

  7. Bill says:

    And, finally, ladies and gentlemen, from the WTF? desk, this:

    “Bob Jones (The real BlackCountry) at 1-15-2010

    I would kindly like to state that, I am a member of a band called BlackCountry. The original BlackCountry. We have been a band since 2007 and would greatly appreciate if this band claiming to be Black Country would change their name. I will be looking into a lawyer to fight this if it proves necessary. We have a site on Facebook, and Myspace that should prove very helpful in proving our name has been BlackCountry for years…and we will continue to represent the name BlackCountry indefinetely.

    Thank you for listening


    BobJones of BlackCountry”

    We should hold a band name contest! I can think of many names to call them!

  8. Bill says:

    Some early entries. Thanks to all for playing!

    1-Porn Face

    2-Pushin’ Hard

    3-Dropping The Kids At The Pool

    4-Scrinch Face

    5-Hard Rock Country Black

    6-Mick Jagger is Katherine Hepburn on Meth

    7-Smokin’ Joe and the Purple Veiners

    8-Black Purple Blues

    9-Skippy and the Retards

    10-Hold the Mayo!

  9. Stu says:

    I’d be A LOT more excited about this record if Kevin Shirley wasn’t producing it. I don’t care for what he’s done with the sound on JB’s solo records. Hopefully he will bring the drums and bass up in the mix for this project, and not compress the overall sound so much.

    • torqdog says:

      I’m in total agreement Stu. Why do you think Dream Theater dropped him?

      • esarsea says:

        I did not know that! Now I have to go back and listen to the difference between Dream Theater albums to see if I am hearing what I think I am hearing. Do you know, off the top of your head, which records of theirs Shirley did vs. the ones he didn’t?

  10. torqdog says:

    Stu, I should have done my homework before making that statement. Kevin Shirley did the mixing starting with “Falling Into Infinity” through “Train of Thought”. Octavarium is when they switched and used a guy named Michael H Brauer. Their next CD, Systematic Chaos they used a guy named Paul Northfield. Here’s the surprise (for me anyway), their most recent release, Black Clouds and Silver Linings, they went back to Kevin Shirley.

    I was gonna say in my OP up above that it seemed as though DTs vocals became clearer with the departure of Kevin Shirley. However, Black Clouds is clearly the best mix to date and that has Kevin’s fingerprints all over it.

    What does all this mean? In my post where I said, “Why do you think Dream Theater dropped him?”……… fuggetta bout it! ;-)

  11. Dave Amorde says:

    Interesting to hear different people’s takes on Bonamassa, Shirley, etc. As for Tony’s remark that Joe “has been headed down the road to rock for some time”, well, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Joe’s most straightforward dabbling with R&R came on some of his earliest material, including 2002 release “So It’s Like That”. His 2006 release “You & Me” which, by no coincidence, features Bonham as drummer, includes a cover of Zep’s “Tea for One” which features a full orchestra backing and some of Joe’s finest guitar work ever. Joe’s albums since have all been decidedly blues oriented, with some Greek Folk thrown into “Black Rock” as a tribute to the locale where the album was recorded.
    If Kevin Shirley has done anything remarkable to Joe’s sound it is only to put a bit of polish to an already beautiful and rich piece of granite.
    Glenn Hughes is a different matter entirely. Funny enough, I was at the California Jam at the now-defunct Ontario Motor Speedway in 1974(?) when Deep Purple performed an excellent set. That I remember it, given that it had been after spending a full day in the hot sun, downing various elixirs of booze and hallucinogenics, is a testament either to my durability, their performance, or perhaps both.
    In the end, I can only say that if it’s good enough for Joe Bonamassa, it’s good enough for me.

    • Stu says:

      Hi Dave

      Welcome to our little corner of the world. Always good to read a fresh perspective. Maybe Tony should have written that the road Joe was following was LOOPING BACK to rock and roll. Bloodline was a rock band, and Joe was a great rock guitarist then. Sure it was blues-rock, but most classic rock is.

      I agree with your observations about SILT. You and Me however is one of my least favorite JB records. In fairness that’s probably more because it marked the end of Eric and Kenny and the power-trio format, the continuing move away from Strats to Les Pauls, and the introduction of “The Shirley Sound.”

      Kevin Shirley’s done a lot of good things for JB’s career and I hold him no ill will. Music is so subjective, and we all have our preferences in style and sound. I preferred the harder-edged stuff of Joe’s early career…but that’s me. Maybe JB wasn’t as commercially viable then, but I’ll take Pain and Sorrow and Color and Shape for my personal enjoyment over his later material any day.

      In any case I am looking forward to hearing BCC. Sept 21st can’t get here soon enough!

      Again, welcome. Look forward to seeing more from you here!

      • Dave Amorde says:

        Thanks for the welcome. :)
        Funny you should mention commercial viability, because I’ve always felt that SILT was his most “commercial” classic-rock album. Or at least, the one most likely to get airplay in Southern California, which I have begged for over the years to no avail. Now I listen to and tell KLOS to stick it.
        I welcomed “John Henry” enthusiastically, if only because “Sloe Gin” is my least favorite. And while I enjoy a good Les Paul riff as much as the next guy, I was very disappointed when Joe signed an endorsement contract with Gibson. I hate to see any musician do anything that handcuffs him to a certain sound. There are just some songs that BEG for a Strat, and no amount of mixing, overdubbing, or pedal effects can change that. “So It’s Like That” is a perfect example of such a song, and I cringe whenever Joe has played it on his recent tours.
        In any case, I too am looking forward to 9/21, and I’m still kicking myself for missing that Riverside show. I had a ticket, but unfortunately real life got in the way.

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February 2010

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