By Anita Stewart, Managing Editor
New Album Review: “Time Clocks”
Release Date: October 29, 2021
Joe Bonamassa drops his epic album this coming Friday–the long-awaited “Time Clocks.” This is Joe Bonamassa at his finest and absolute best as one of the top rockers of today. Guitar World Magazine has called him “the world’s biggest blues guitarist.” The amazing amounts of effort he puts in to mentor, teach and assist other artists makes him a much loved and respected figure with his peers and within the music community at large. He is a favorite here at Rock at Night. You can check out our album review of his last released recording HERE and our review of this album’s title track HERE. Joe seems to be everywhere you look; he even cranks out weekly programming for his radio show “Different Shades Of Blue” for Sirius XM‘s Bluesville channel.
“What started out with the intentions of being a trio record turned into probably my most adventurous and involved record to date,” says Bonamassa. His producer, Kevin Shirley says, “I think Joe Bonamassa has made an album that is truly transitional. From a blues musician to a superstar artist, [and] I’m so thrilled to be along for the ride.” The album was recorded at the Germano Studios/The Hit Factory in New York. Joe and Kevin pulled in Bob Clearmountain to mix the tracks, and Bob declares that “This is one of the best albums I’ve mixed in years. Joe is not only one of the finest blues & rock guitarists of our time, he’s also a brilliant songwriter, [which is] impressively apparent on this record.” The legendary Clearmountain has worked with The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Toto and Bon Jovi to name a few.
The band members include Steve Mackey on bass, Lachy Doley on piano, Bunna Lawrie on the didgeridoo, Bobby Summerfield on percussion and Late Night with David Letterman‘s Anton Fig on drums and percussion. Backing vocals are: Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Prinnie Stevens. The fantastic artwork on the album was created by famous graphic artist Hugh Syme (Rush, Aerosmith, Whitesnake). ‘Time Clocks’ will be available on CD, vinyl and digital and released on Bonamassa’s own record label, J&R Adventures.
Looking back on recording during COVID-19, Bonamassa reflects: “Twenty years ago, I recorded a record of covers that eventually was called ‘Blues Deluxe.’ It was recorded at Bobby Nathan’s studio in Manhattan. It captured an energy and purpose that always stuck with me as an artist. I lived in New York City at the time and times were pretty tough. My weekly routine was a combination of hustling sessions, gigs, and opportunities that seemed few and far between. I was hungry. Literally and figuratively. The music business is tough, very tough. Especially back in those days when major labels pulled all the strings and, in my case, all the punches. I subsisted on a basic diet of peanut butter and jelly and ramen noodles, purchased at the bodega on the corner of 83rd and Columbus Avenue. Cut to 2019 and I find myself back in New York and inspired by the city again. My living conditions had changed dramatically in the subsequent 20 years, but the energy that makes New York City great still remained. In February 2021, we found ourselves at Germano Studios, cutting music as a trio (but not trio music) and having to invent ways of making records when your lifelong producer is stuck in Australia due to travel restrictions. Kevin Shirley came up with a way of linking continents and consoles to where we had literally zero latency. Add Steve Mackey and Anton Fig to the mix, a few masks and curse words and we have the ‘New York Record’ aka ‘Time Clocks.'”
A few of the songs were not normally what a fan would expect to hear from Joe, for example, the title track of this album which was more pop, but such a compelling story. I for one was riveted to the accompanying video to see how the story ended. The opening short track, “Pilgrimage” with the didgeridoo and “Notches,” the dramatic song with lyrics about traveling–had the sounds of an Indian tabla and vocals that gave the tune an southeastern Asian influence. The classic love gone wrong blues song is “The Heart That Never Waits.” Loved “Questions and Answers,” great lyrics, keys and lead and backing vocals. “Mind’s Eye” was a much slower tempo song with almost classical form. “Curtain Call” sounded almost Spanish mixed with classical instrumentation. With the wind instruments in “The Loyal Kind,” it sounded like a throwback to Celtic music of past centuries in parts. Classic southern blues and honky-tonk with great guitar and slide during the break for the song “Hanging On a Loser.” “Known Unknowns” is classic blues and break up song…a personal favorite. It seemed that Joe was traveling to different parts of the world and experiencing so many different and wide ranging emotions with these songs.
What Rock at Night says about “Time Clocks:” “A classic blues album by this mega-star! Well crafted songs, engaging lyrics, serious hooks, smooth engineering and musical expertise–what more could a music lover ask for? This is an album that tips the hat to different vibes and feels in the songs and Joe B is a master story-teller. What adds the cherry to the very top is how he pulls in the best people to work with so they can all excel together! Catch this artist live if you can!“
Joe is excited to be back on the stage and touring again. He is currently doing shows across the country before taking part in shows aboard a sold-out cruise on the Norwegian Pearl for the Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea VII. The ship will be sailing from Miami, FL to a port of call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica from February 21-25, 2022.
For tickets to upcoming shows and the tour dates, visit: https://jbonamassa.com/tour-dates/.