Joe Bonamassa: Live At Carnegie Hall – An Acoustic Evening Review

The piano intro to Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” is a witty precursor to “This Train,” the opening track on this live recording from January 2016 of Joe Bonamassa playing with an entirely acoustic 9-piece outfit, featuring familiar collaborators like Reese Wynans on piano and Anton Fig on drums, as well as some new faces who help to conjure up a fresh take on some familiar material.

“This Train” rattles along with real vim, with cellist Tina Guo providing fills that nicely counterpoint the riff and Bonamassa offering a steam whistle-ish guitar break. It heralds an impressive opening stretch that also includes “Drive” and “The Valley Runs Low” from Blues Of Desperation. Along the way it’s apparent that this set-up suits Bonamassa’s voice, allowing him to throttle back and concentrate on feel. But for your money there’s also some spooky erhu (a ‘Chinese fiddle’) from Guo and a steely semi-classical solo from the main man on “Drive;” a Celtic feel to passages on the simple but exquisite “The Valley Runs Low;” and on “Dust Bowl” some interesting percussion from Fig and Egyptian maestro Hossam Ramzy.

The middle of the hour and a half long set gets a bit erratic, with some so-so song choices and overextended renditions. But they really hit their stride again with a laid back arrangement of “Mountain Time” featuring magnificent, perfectly pitched piano from Wynans, who is frequently the real star of this show.

Black Country Communion’s “Song Of Yesterday” is another highlight, an extended epic with a brooding opening, atmospheric cello and moaning backing vox, all creating an air of Zeppelin in “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” mode. With its driving, uptempo coda, it may be long but it’s well worth it. Then down the stretch “Woke Up Dreaming” serves up a “Flight Of The Bumblebee” style guitar and cello workout from Bonamassa and Guo, before things cool off towards with BB King’s “Hummingbird” and an overlong encore of “The Rose.”

This is Joe Bonamassa’s 22nd solo album release in the last 15 years, never mind all his collaborations. That may feel like a relentless stream of product, but don’t let that put you off this outing. Live At Carnegie Hall: An Acoustic Evening contains some real gems.

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– This Train
– The Valley Runs Low
– Dust Bowl
– Black Lung Heartache
– Mountain Time
– Song Of Yesterday

The Big Hit

– Song Of Yesterday

Review by Iain Cameron

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

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