Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Black Coffee

With inventive and explosive takes on old blues and folk tunes, jazz ballads, and some surprising contemporary work, Black Coffee showcases two incredible talents and scratches out a new groove in a very old record

Album Review by Aidan Ryan | 07 Feb 2018
Album title: Black Coffee
Artist: Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa
Label: Provogue
Release date: 9 Feb

Blues singer Beth Hart, guitarist Joe Bonamassa and producer Kevin Shirley have teamed up with old friends and new for their third studio collaboration. Like Don’t Explain (2011) and Seesaw (2013), Hart and Bonamassa use Black Coffee to continue exploring the blues.

While previous records dug into the past to recover and re-present songs that listeners might have missed or lost though, Black Coffee ranges through songs everyone should already know – like Etta James’ forge-hot comeback track Damn Your Eyes or the record’s eponymous Ike and Tina Turner cover, Black Coffee – to the totally obscure – like Austrian downtempo trio Waldeck’s Addicted, which Shirley heard, Shazamed, and shared with Hart and Bonamassa.

They also don’t shy from covering the oft-covered, presenting here their searing versions of LaVern Baker’s gospel stamp-and-clapper Saved, Doc Watson’s folk porch-rocker Sitting On Top of the World, and Kansas Joe McCoy’s smoky lament Why Don’t You Do Right?, all of which have been “rediscovered” more times than it’s worth recounting here. But Hart and Bonamassa have proved again that their approach – inventive and challenging arrangements, recorded live in the studio – will keep yielding fresh and fiery results.

Hart and Bonamassa often repeat that they can achieve things together that they couldn’t imagine attempting alone, but much credit must go to the backing band, whose depth of talent and versatility allow the record to dive deep into gospel, big band, walking blues, jazz ballad, and even trip-hop sounds. Kevin Shirley’s steady hands also help to shape tracks that conjure up amphitheatres on sweltering summer afternoons (like the horn-heavy opener Give It Everything You Got) as easily as they do underground cafes on rainy autumn evenings (like the gorgeous Lullaby of the Leaves). These exceptional music-makers provide the perfect setting and compliment to showcase the virtuosity and passion of the now famous pair, Hart and Bonamassa.

On Black Coffee, these two scratch out a new groove in a very old record, and it’s well worth listening.