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Album Review

Fans of guitar master Joe Bonamassa will be delighted that 2011 was such a prolific year in his career. First came the fine, rootsy Dust Bowl, then 2, the second chapter in his Black Country Communion project's catalog. Don't Explain, a collection of soul, blues, and jazz-oriented covers in collaboration with vocal firebrand Beth Hart marks his third entry this year. The ten-song set of blues and soul is a logical extension of her vocal contribution to "No Love on the Street" from Dust Bowl. Opening is a thoroughly raucous contemporary blues reading of Ray Charles' "Sinner's Prayer," followed by a quirky version of Tom Waits' "Chocolate Jesus," and an unusual cover of contemporary jazz-pop singer/songwriter Melody Gardot's "You Heart Is as Black as Night." On this cut, a string orchestra adds a touch of perversity; it offers the impression of a femme fatale singing a Brecht-Weill number in a smoky cabaret in front of a moody string orchestra, buoyed by a brooding electric blues quintet. "For My Friends," a Bill Withers' tune, is a big, nasty, jagged blues number that keeps the funky groove intact. The title track, a number closely associated with Billie Holiday, falls flat. Hart tries too hard to employ Holiday's phrasing, the string orchestrations are overblown, and Bonamassa's crew is too reverent. This formula also mars the remake of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" that closes the set. Far better are readings of Etta James' signatories "I'd Rather Go Blind," and "Something's Got a Hold on Me." Hart's emotive, throaty delivery is perfectly suited to both songs, and she resists trying to ape James' phrasing. Since they follow one another directly, the musical difference between them also showcase's Hart's diverse abilities. The former is a soul burner, the latter a gospel blues. Bonamassa and band accent her every phrase with requisite rowdiness, sting, and grit. The pair's only vocal collaboration is a burning read of Delaney & Bonnie's "Well, Well." With Anton Fig's breaks and rim shots underscoring Arlan Scheirbaum's electric piano fills, Bonamassa's burning leads, the chunky, rhythmic foundation from guitarist Blondie Chaplin, and Carmine Rojas' bassline, Hart and the lead guitarist trade whip-smart call and response vocals with enough raw country-soul to bring the song to a new audience. While not a perfect recording, Don't Explain is a good one, whose strengths are numerous enough to warrant a second go round. ~Thom Jurek, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Music is Back!

My initial thoughts when hearing about this album was: I know Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa both has a great big set of b@lls and a lot of talent - but to handle 10 classics like these, really is a big mouthful. Not only are the originals all killer, but some of the songs have also been covered by many greats before them. So would these two artists really be able to add anything new? The answer is a loud and clear "YES!". Even a song like Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" which I've heard many others do before sounds unique here. Joe's guitar-playing is out of this world and Beth Hart ... oh my God ... Beth Hart proves herself to be the best singer of our generation - hell - most generations. This is a must have for anyone who likes rock, blues, soul ... actually: Anyone who likes music.

Rock mamma'

It has it All....

Biography

Born: 24 January 1972 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Los Angeles-based blues-rocker Beth Hart began playing piano at age four, later attending L.A.'s High School for the Performing Arts as a vocal and cello major. By 1993, she was a regular fixture of the local club circuit, by 1993 collaborating with bassist Tal Herzberg and guitarist Jimmy Khoury; with the addition of drummer Sergio Gonzalez early the following year, the Beth Hart Band was complete, and after signing to Atlantic's Lava imprint, the group issued its debut album, Immortal, in 1996....
Full bio
Don't Explain, Beth Hart
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