If you ask most people to describe what they consider the standard blues guitarist, they would probably go down the old, craggy man route. Someone who can damn well play, but is not exactly one of the hip young people the modern music world seem to have such an obsession with. However, if you dig below the surface, times are a changing and two albums I’ve checked out in the last week or so, are the perfect proof of that.
Joe Bonamassa and Joanne Shaw Taylor are both young blues musicians, currently plying their trade all over the world. I think it’s fair to say Bonamassa is the better known of the two, as he’s spent time playing with acts like Beth Hart and Big Country Communion, however, Joanne Shaw Taylor’s not exactly a slouch herself, as she played lead guitar in Annie Lennox’s band during the Diamond Jubilee Concert back in 2012. Outside of all of this, there is also the fact that both of these musicians ooze cool.
This year saw Bonamassa drop his first album full of entirely original music, Different Shades of Blue, and it is easily one of my albums of the year. Much like the title suggests, it feels like a potted history of the blue, as Bonamassa explores both it’s history and his own playing style. Taylor meanwhile released The Dirty Truth, another fantastic album, that see’s her fuzzed up blues sounding the best it ever has. Both of these albums pay respect to the blues sound that has come before, but more importantly, also sound like work made in 2014, work that you want to listen to because it is fresh and vibrant.
Anyone with even a limited knowledge of the history of musicl will know that the blues is pretty much year zero for a lot of the genres that we listen to on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s always been a bit of a shame that it has seemed to move away from the mainstream or even some of the alternative worlds where you would think it would get the respect it deserved. As a metal fan, the blues is as much in the history of our music as it is any other genres and yet I know very few people that would class themselves as blues fans. The people I know who spend time listening to the likes of Bonamassa, are the people who love rock and roll, who grew up on bands like Zeppelin and The Who.
However, with artists like Bonamassa and Taylor (and there are a lot more out there for you to discover) it feels like the blues is becoming cool again and while I could never claim to be someone who cares about what is cool, it’s something that makes me happy. Rather than feeling old fashioned, their music feels new and fresh and if it stays that way, it will hopefully lead to a whole new generation of people growing up with an appreciation of a genre that has given us all so much.