Joe Bonamassa's 'Simply Blues' Strategy Pays Off on 'Driving'
Joe Bonamassa's 'Simply Blues' Strategy Pays Off on 'Driving'

Joe Bonamassa says it was time to get back to "simply blues" for his latest album, "Driving Towards Daylight," even though he wouldn't necessarily call it a pure blues album.

"Every one of my records has a word associated with it," Bonamassa, who released the album in May, tells Billboard.com. " 'The Ballad of John Henry' (2009), that was swampy. 'Dust Bowl' (2011), that was 'Americana.' 'Black Rock' (2010) was 'worldly.' This was simply blues, 'Let's go back and make a straight-ahead blues album -- as straight ahead as we can make it, which is still not technically blues but is close enough.' That was the idea this time."

Bonamassa and producer Kevin Shirley started on "Driving Towards Daylight" during August of 2011, cutting four songs before breaking and then reconvening in February, when the set "really started to take shape." That's also when they recruited Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, who plays on seven of the album's tracks, to come on board, along with Whitford's son Harrison, who joined his father and Bonamassa on the album's title track.

"It was great having a bona fide rock legend like that in the band," Bonamassa says. "Brad's a straight-ahead rock guy; his playing is a little more edgy, and it's really good. It kind of forces you to raise your game a little bit. And he's such a nice guy, kind of a guitar geek like me and the rest of us. We'd be sitting at dinner, talking for hours about pickups and old Les Pauls. You forget that's the dude for Aerosmith." "Driving Toward the Daylight" also features Jimmy Barnes, Blondie Chaplin, Carmine Rojas, Pat Thrall and Anton Fig, while Bonamassa wrote the title track, one of three originals on the album, with Danny Kortchmar.

Bonamassa, meanwhile, has also been busy with his other musical endeavor, the all-star group Black Country Communion. He, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian convened with Shirley in early June to begin work on their third studio album, and Bonamassa is predicting something different than 2011's "2."

"We really decided we wanted to go in more of a Free direction," Bonamassa notes. "I think the music got a little heavy on the last record, borderline heavy metal, so maybe we'll dial that back a little this time and go for more straight-ahead British rock." He isn't sure yet when the album will be finished and out, but he expects Black Country Communion to play some live dates to support it -- though likely not as many as fans and his bandmates might like.

"All of the people that are in that group, I think they would like to see me do more of it, tour more, do less of my solo thing and more with Black Country Communion," he says. "If you really ask them, they'll probably say 'Joe's the one holding us back from touring.' But I can't tour all of the time, and I've worked 20-some odd years to build up my own thing, and I don't want to let that go. Last year we went straight from our spring tour to the summer with Black Country, which was awesome and a great experience but almost put me out of business, physically. You need to go home and get off the road sometimes. But I like making records with (the band). To me that band is like a big comet; you go rocketing through very quickly and it's explosive, so you save it and make it special rather than trying to do it too much."

Bonamassa next plays the Montreux Jazz Festival on June 29 in Switzerland but will be mostly off during the summer. A nine-week North American fall tour begins on Oct. 13, and Bonamassa already has three U.K. dates booked for March of 2013.