Ronan McCullagh examines the playing of an undersung but brilliant blues-rock guitarist, Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush.
Delve into the virtuosic world of Bonamassa with Ronan McCullagh as he examines the New Yorker’s powerfully versatile style.
Blues-rock guitarist extraordinaire Joe Bonamassa was born in New York in 1977, and he began by picking the strings of a short-scale guitar at the age of four. His father, a guitar player and dealer, showed him a thing or two but more importantly shared his great record collection with the youngster. One record in particular grabbed Joe’s ear: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Featuring Eric Clapton. This is still evident in his playing and choice of ‘main’ guitar today: the 1959 Gibson Les Paul.
Danny Gatton played a big role in Joe’s musical upbringing as a tutor, mentor and friend. BB King was another giant of the guitar to come along and discover the young Joe, who was being driven up and down the country to small and frequently underattended bar gigs. Often welcoming him to his own stage, King offered 18-year-old the opening slot on his 80th birthday celebration tour. That association and the national TV coverage it engendered, meant Joe’s parents were inundated with phone calls from managers and record companies.
Joe’s taken on BB King’s advice of investing back in the listener as his shows never get stale; he is often changing material, ensemble sizes and themes. Next time he’s in the UK it’ll be a spectacular, new and entertaining show, so be sure to get your tickets when he comes to your area. Not to mention you get to hear and see a real 1959 Les Paul (and other great guitars) trying to destroy a vintage tweed Fender amp, with a true blues master in the driving seat.
Joe’s style is difficult to describe as he embodies so many different musicians that have moulded the language of blues. If it were to be summed up in two words it would be ‘powerfully versatile’. It’s obvious to any fan of the blues that Joe has spent considerable time researching Clapton, Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, the three Kings, and so many more. However, he has another edge with vocab from the likes of Danny Gatton, Robben Ford and Eric Johnson which is why Joe is such a wellrounded player. This knowledge that he has gained from hours of transcribing is the foundation of Joe’s playing – a big reminder to us all of the importance of understanding the language. It doesn’t stop there with his playing as Joe has a way of mixing all this iconic vocab together, delivering it with a personal touch, honesty and conviction. He really has a wide palette to play with, from lower dynamic phrases with lots of space right up to relentless machine gun-like lines that are treated with grade A precision.
Bonamassa Is young, he’s got great Ideas. one of a kInd. the kInd that wIll Be a legend Before he’s 25 BB King
Joe Bonamassa: playing a ’64 style Gibson Firebird I