It has been 4 years since Grammy nominated and number 1 Billboard Blues album Seesaw was released by singer-songwriter and blues-rock powerhouse Beth Hart and guitar hero Joe Bonamassa.
Since then, they have both been on fire, both in the studio and live. So, the time was perfect to reunite for another collection of ten soul gems that encompass Hart’s breath-taking vocals and Joe’s masterfully expressive playing. Black Coffee will be released on January 26th , 2018.
With producer extraordinaire Kevin ‘The Caveman’ Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Rush) back at the helm, the result digs deep into the soul catalogue where they honour and re-imagine songs from Edgar Winter, Etta, James, Ike & Tina Turner/Steve Marriot, Ella Fitzgerald, Lil’ Green, LaVern Baker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lucinda Williams and Waldeck.
Recorded in 5 days at Studio at the Palms, Las Vegas in August 2016 they have once again recalled some familiar names in Anton Fig (Drums/Percussion), Ron Dziubla (Saxophone), Lee Thornburg (Horn Arrangements/Trumpet/Trombone) and welcomed in Reese Wynans (Keyboards), Michael Rhodes (Bass), Rob McNelley (Rhythm Guitar), Paulie Cerra (Saxophone), Mahalia Barnes (Backing Vocals), Jade Macrae (Backing Vocals) and Juanita Tippins (Backing vocals).
Talking about the sessions behind Black Coffee, Seesaw, 2011’s Don’t Explain and 2014’s Live in Amsterdam, Shirley gives some insight of what they are looking to achieve; “We’re trying not to dig into a playbook that’s been done many times, which is the old soul classics. We try and find a different spin on it; originally, it was about trying to find some songs that people didn’t know at all and bring them back to people’s attention.”
One such song was Give It Everything You Got, taken from 1971’s Edgar Winter’s White Trash album. With its hard rock meets Stax infused sound, the band delivers a formidable performance. “I don’t think that’s a song a lot of people know; it’s an old soul classic, but it’s not really one you might expect,” says Shirley
“For me I’m able to explore the kind of music I have always admired from afar,” reveals Bonamassa. “But you don’t want to hear me singing Ella Fitzgerald…” he explained as Beth joins in. “I would never do Ella Fitzgerald without being with Joe, the things I get to do with you are things I grew up always wanting to do, but never believed I could.”
The sultry punch of Lucinda Williams’ Joy has a totally irresistible groove. “We have tracks like that and I love the energy,” Shirley adds. Addicted is taken from the 2007 trip-hop leaning album by the Austrian trio, Waldeck, which Shirley came across whilst on holiday and “shazamed” it.
“That’s something the two of us stopped doing many years ago,” agrees Hart. “There was all this layering, and then it’s time for you to sing. It’s like you’re not even making music any more. There’s nothing like being able to sit there live and see Joe, seeing the drums, seeing the bass, being able to see Kevin. I can feel the vibrations, it changes the whole thing.”
“Kevin really gets that,” she continues. “It works the best. In the old days, that’s how they did it; bad ass singers and bad ass musicians would have a couple of hours to get a whole record done.”
One of the key aspects of the sessions is to push everyone as much as possible. “They are always out of their comfort zone in the studio; this session especially wasn’t comfortable,” Shirley reveals. “This isn’t a summer in the grass session, just a couple of chords; this is people digging in. Everyone left feeling totally challenged, and at the end of the day, completely enthusiastic.”