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Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa: Don’t Explain

Album Review

File under ‘mostly wonderful’.

We need to talk about Joey. You’d have thought Mr B’s solo career and his Black Country Communion project would keep him fully busied up, but here he is again, teamed up with vocalist Beth Hart for a sizzling smörgåsbord of classic (mostly) soul covers cut in a mere four days with producer Kevin Shirley.

A great team they are, too: Hart’s gritty contralto both crackles and soars, and Joey Bones is a perfect sideman, knowing exactly when to step out and when to step back. 

Don’t Explain reminds us that while the influence of blues on hard rock is well-known, that of soul is criminally underestimated, as is also the influence of female soul singers on male rock singers. Thus Bill Withers’ For My Friend morphs into one of the best Zeppelin tracks never cut by Pagey & Co; Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus becomes eerie hard-rock; Kurt Weill and Nina Simone’s title tune is a torch-ballad noir epic. 

Much of this works beautifully, though there are moments of disgraceful hammage on the two Etta James tribs, and Shirley occasionally slathers on the synth strings so heavily that they smother, rather than support, the two principals. Still: four studio days very well spent.

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