Greetings again from the darkness. It’s a trivia question likely to stump most of your friends: Who has more number one Blues albums than anyone else? The answer is guitarist extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa, and co-directors Phillippe Klose and Kevin Shirley serve up a documentary to remove some of the mystery for those familiar with Smokin’ Joe, and an unveiling for those who aren’t. If you are asking yourself, “Joe who?” you should know that he opened for BB King … as a 12 year old prodigy!
“I’ve got to go become the other guy.” Joe B confesses that’s his approach to prepare for a gig. He’s been described as bi-polar (not a clinical diagnosis) as he alternates between Joe in blue jeans and a ball cap, and Joe Bonamassa on stage in a suit and shades. And what a transformation it is. Joe is such a laid back guy that his Los Angeles home is nicknamed “Nerdville”, yet when his stage presence and music is explosive and beloved by his audiences.
A treasure trove of concert clips is provided, including a few from Joe’s early years. We learn of his struggles within the music industry, including his time with the band, Bloodline, which featured the offspring of legends Miles Davis, Robbie Krieger, Berry Oakley, and Sammy Hagar. Joe’s agent and partner Ray Weisman provides a great deal of background on the difficulty associated with helping Joe find his niche, and the risks and rewards of their founding their own record label in order to “own” Joe’s music. It’s fascinating to hear how a guy so talented faced so many challenges in discovering the right path.
Speaking of clips, we see Joe perform at such hallowed venues as Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Greek Theater, and Royal Albert Hall … with Eric Clapton. A personal favorite is the clip of Joe performing as the great Paul Rogers (Free, Bad Company) sings lead. A concert at the stunning Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado shows up a couple times, and we see Joe and his producer Kevin Shirley (also co-director on this film) make a trip to the “Crossroads”, where the legend of Robert Johnson was born. Other influences for Joe include Albert King, Freddie King, BB King, and Muddy Waters.
Joe Bonamassa natural talent likely stems from his family of musicians. His great-grandfather and grandfather played trumpets, while his own father was a guitarist. His progression through producers and collaborators includes Miami Steve Van Zandt, Phil Ramone, Tom Dowd, and, Kevin Shirley. Of course neither genetics nor affiliation explains Joe’s extraordinary work ethic and obsession with challenging himself. We see his joy in music as he’s interviewed in front of a wall of Fender amps … the same amps he once dreamed of owning.
Arriving December 8, 2020 on VOD from Paramount Home Entertainment