Review: "Black Coffee" - Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa

by Andy Snipper,

Damn but this is fun! Beth Hart in full flow and Joe Bonamassa giving it the full beans. Wicked!

This is the first collaboration since the Live In Amsterdam album about 4 years back, mainly because they have been too busy on other projects but if they are going to pick a set of songs to relight the fire, this is the one. A series of soul and rock classics that just cry out for Hart’s vocals and Bonamassa’s guitar lines.

The opening song pretty well sets the tone as ‘Give It Everything You’ve Got’ (Jerry LaCroix & Edgar Winter) starts with a harsh and wah-wah’ed guitar before the horns bray and Hart’s full on smoky vocals tear the ass out of the song. This is powerful soul music with a real rock edge and Hart’s voice is just about perfect to carry the song off. Bonamassa delivers another one of his great guitar lines and by the end of the song you are as spent as they are.

The title track of the album is originally Steve Marriot’s finest moment in Humble Pie but here the pair take it another step further – I don’t know if it is the modern recording techniques or the performance but the ensemble playing around Hart’s voice seem to imbue the song with a sense of being right on the edge.

Between those two is a jazz classic, Alex Clare’s ‘Damn Your Eyes’ which burns with a steamy and passionate intensity.

Hart’s voice on Bernice Petkere’s ‘Lullaby Of The Leaves’ goes to places that even Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme never managed and take a strong and emotional song into the realms of majesty. Beth Hart has always had the ability to make you believe in what she is singing but here she wrings the emotion out of the listener, setting it up for Bonamassa’s best solo of the entire album.

I am not normally a fan of cover albums but this is something exceptional – two great artists putting their own spin on the songs and really doing them all justice. Ask yourself just how many times you’ve heard versions of ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ and when the last time was that a version actually made you listen? 

The Mississippi Sheiks layed it down in the 1930’s but this may be the first time since I heard Cream do it that it actually hit the spot.

10 tracks that just cannot be ignored and while I’d like to say I have a favorite, that has changed every time I’ve cued it up.

Great album.

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