A blues­man for mod­ern times, smokin’ Joe Bona­massa has been hon­ing his blues-rock tech­nique since he was a young boy. Les Davidson ex­plores his mon­ster style.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Les Davidson ex­plores the won­der­ful ca­reer of blues vir­tu­oso Joe Bona­massa.

If you share a stage with BB King be­fore you reach your 16th birth­day, chances are that a glit­ter­ing musical ca­reer awaits. And so it has been for blues-rock phe­nom­e­non, Joe Bona­massa.

Born in 1977 in New York, Joe was given his first gui­tar at the age of four by his fa­ther, who also shared with his son his love of the blues – in par­tic­u­lar for the mu­si­cians who drove the 60s Bri­tish blues boom. Joe’s early in­flu­ences em­braced the three Kings but, like his fa­ther, also stretched across the wa­ter to Eric Clap­ton, Jeff Beck, Paul Kos­soff, Gary Moore and Peter Green. By the age of 12, Joe was al­ready caus­ing a stir as he played around his lo­cal area with his own band, Smokin’ Joe Bona­massa. Within just a few years he was play­ing 20 shows open­ing for BB King – no mean feat! The videos of this pre­co­cious lad are tes­ta­ment to his bur­geon­ing tal­ent and are well worth watch­ing. Joe’s next step was in an out­fit called Blood­line, a blues-rock band with the sons of mu­sic leg­ends Miles Davis and Robby Krieger of The Doors. He then went solo, re­leas­ing his first al­bum on his own la­bel J&R Ad­ven­tures.

Joe’s suc­cess is due in no small part to his live work sched­ule (200 plus shows a year) and his abil­ity to write and sing blues songs to suit the mod­ern palate. Now aged 39, Joe’s style con­tin­ues to ma­ture and de­velop as he in­ves­ti­gates dif­fer­ent musical lan­guages and in­cor­po­rates them into his play­ing. He has sev­eral side projects, which keeps him honed in dif­fer­ent ar­eas and he also runs a not-for­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion called Keeping The Blues Alive Foun­da­tion, to help fund schol­ar­ships and pro­vide mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion re­courses to schools in need.

Joe plays with mus­cle and a very pre­cise pick­ing tech­nique, so fo­cus on pre­ci­sion and feel in equal mea­sure. I’m us­ing a heavy pick but I oc­ca­sion­ally bring in my sec­ond and third fin­ger when cross­ing strings. Use whichever ap­proach feels best for you.


Joe Bona­massa: pin­stripes, vin­tage Les Paul, Bigsby and a capo!

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