Blowing the blues

HE SINGS with the gruff force of a true-blue rocker, but his music is firmly embedded in blues.

At 35, award-winning US guitarist and singer-songwriter Joe Bonamassa's body of work and collaborations belie his age, having notched more miles and licks on his guitar than many of his peers.

From headlining at the Royal Albert Hall, to playing alongside greats such as Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker, he has garnered praise even from blues legend B.B. King.

In town on Sept 17 to play at the Esplanade Concert Hall, Bonamassa will debut tracks from his latest 2012 solo album, Driving Towards The Daylight.

It's a mixture of uniquely covered classics and slow-burning originals with enthralling, speedy rock solos rooted in the raw, emotive power of blues, and features Aerosmith's guitarist Brad Whitford as one of the many guest performers.

The over-achiever has, to date, released 13 solo albums in 12years, with five more slated for next year.

Despite being hailed as a guitar virtuoso by critics and peers, he tells LOUD by e-mail that he could have been a trumpet player instead.

You grew up with parents who owned a guitar shop. Could you have played another instrument?

I briefly played trumpet as I was being mentored by my late grandfather. I was around four years old. A few months later, I really decided guitar was for me (when Bonamassa heard Stevie Ray Vaughan) and the trumpet had to be put away. I don't play any other instruments now. I stick to what I'm good at.

When you played Stone Cold Hearted with your first band Bloodline (in 1994), there's a bit in your solo which strays from blues to classical. How did your style evolve?

I was really into fusion and wanting to be a jazz player in those days. So some of that playing can get a little outside the box. I was a different person than I am now. Older and wiser is the key.

Which part of the world surprises with their interpretation of the blues?

It's not about the best. It's so subjective, there is no best. I have heard blues from as far away as China, South America, South Africa, Russia... Blues is simple and allows you to really infuse your culture into it. It's an extraordinary form of music.

What was it like playing the Royal Albert Hall, a venue that has seen the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin?

The Royal Albert Hall was obviously the biggest and most special show I have done to date. I was very nervous knowing that it was either the beginning of the beginning or the beginning of the end.

Luckily, it worked out and we have a great film (The Joe Bonamassa Live From The Royal Albert Hall DVD was released in 2009) to show for it.

Would you ever take your jams to Mali and Senegal, where many say blues originated from, and play with folks like Tinariwen, Vieux Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate?

Mali is on my wish list. South Africa, as is Cuba is too, although I hear sadly Mali is in trouble at the moment. The Farka Toure family (from Mali) makes some wonderful music. One day, I shall go.

Before you hit the show, go to for a free download of Joe Bonamassa's title track, Driving Towards The Daylight, and see the facing page for a chance to win tickets, a meet-and-greet and a Bonamassa-autographed Epiphone guitar

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