Joe Bonamassa, the American DIY guitar whiz who has been voted "Best Blues Guitarist" by Guitar Player magazine three years in a row, was still buzzing the day after playing with Eric Clapton at London's Royal Albert Hall.
"It was the thrill of a lifetime for me," Bonamassa told Billboard.com from the studio where he was watching footage of the concert, which was filmed for a DVD release in the fall. "I find that the higher you go up the ladder sometimes, the more humble and nice people are. That's truly the case of Eric Clapton; he's my hero and the reason I play the way I play, just basically one of those guys who plus the guitar straight into an amp and it sounds like him."
Clapton's guest spot at the Monday night concert -- which also featured former Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones, now a BBC disc jockey, on "Your Funeral, My Trial" -- came after Bonamassa wrote him a letter that was delivered by a mutual friend. "We'd met a couple of times before," Bonamassa said, "and invited him to come and sit in with me. He wrote back and said, 'I'd love to come.' I was really surprised he agreed; he's got his own run of shows (starting May 11 in Dublin) and was busy in rehearsals. A lot of time when you're rehearsing and everything, the last thing you want to do is go sing some more and play some more, but it was really nice of him to come and do. It meant the world to me."
Bonamassa said he's pleased with the footage he'd seen so far, noting that "everybody played really well, and we got everything recorded. There were no sidesteps." He'll be continue to Europe until June 6, supporting his latest album "The Ballad of John Henry," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Blues Album chart after its Feb. 24 release.
The guitarist plans to stay overseas after the tour, hunkering down in Greece to do some recording with local musicians "and see what comes of that. It will be the start of the next album, but it won't be 'Joe plays with a bunch of Greek guys.' That will be an element of it, but I'm taking a worldly approach to it. We'll do a few things there, then maybe take it back to America and do something in the South, make it swampy, and go some other places and put all together and see what we've got." Bonamassa expects to release the album in 2010.