Joe Bonamassa has a track record of releasing new material every few months and, following the recent release of Black Country Communion’s fourth album, early 2018 sees a new release by him and blues-rock singer Beth Hart. Their blues-soul covers album, Black Coffee, is release by Mascot records on 26th January.

The two first recorded together for the Grammy-nominated #1 Billboard Blues album Seesaw in 2014, and the 10 tracks for Black Coffee were recorded back in a five-day session in Las Vegas in 2016. The sessions were again helmed by JB’s regular producer Kevin Shirley. The cuts also feature Anton Fig (drums/percussion), Ron Dziubla (saxophone) and Lee Thornburg (horns), plus Reese Wynans (keyboards), Michael Rhodes (bass), Rob McNelley (rhythm guitar) and more.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa

Talking about the sessions, Shirley says: “We’re trying not to dig into a playbook that’s been done many times which is the old soul classics. We try and find a different spin on it, originally it was about trying to find some songs that people didn’t know at all and bring them back to people’s attention.”

Opener “Give It Everything You Got” is taken from Edgar Winter’s 1971 album White Trash. “Damn Your Eyes” is taken from Etta James’ 1988 comeback record Seven Year Itch, Kansas Joe McCoy’s jazz-blues “Why Don’t You Do It Right?” made its first impact on Lil Green’s 1941 version before Peggy Lee covered it a year later. The pair harness prime Steve Marriott on his take of Ike & Tina Turner’s “Black Coffee”, specific inspiration coming from his version live on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973. “Lullaby of the Leaves” was originally recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, and one of the lesser known songs on 1964’s Hello Dolly. A more familiar cut to blues rock scholars is “Sitting On Top of The World”, the classic already recorded by Ray Charles, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Cream and the Grateful Dead among others.

The two insist they both bring different talents to the table that have enabled them to record these much-loved songs. “For me, I’m able to explore the kind of music I have always admired from afar,” reveals Bonamassa. “But you don’t want to hear me singing Ella Fitzgerald…”

Beth Hart adds, “I would never do Ella Fitzgerald without being with Joe, the things I get to do with you [talking to Joe] are things I think I grew up always wanting to do, but never believed I could.”

“It’s really predicated on the vocals,” Bonamassa explains. “We can’t cut these tunes without Beth singing and once she starts singing, it’s the glue that inspires us to get the extra 10% out of the playing. If we just cut them and sang later, the magic wouldn’t be there.”

“They are always out of their comfort zone in the studio, this session especially wasn’t a comfortable session,” Shirley adds. “Everyone left feeling challenged. It’s intriguing. We go into the studio for five days and all of the musicians are challenged, they are all very good musicians, very experienced musicians, top of their field… Nothing is easy, this isn’t a summer in the grass session, just a couple of chords – this is people digging in deep.”


Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa Black Coffee Track Listing:

“Give It Everything You Got”

“Damn Your Eyes”

“Black Coffee”

“Lullaby Of The Leaves”

“Why Don't You Do Right”

“Saved”

“Sitting On Top Of The World”

“Joy”

“Soul On Fire”

“Addicted”