Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Don’t Explain

They Say :- Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Beth Hart, known for her raw and powerful blues-rock sound, wraps her expressive vocals around classic soul covers on Don’t Explain, an album that grew out of her friendship with guitarist Joe Bonamassa.  Produced by Kevin Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes), the album features Hart’s scorching interpretations of ten songs, with Bonamassa on guitar and his ace band filling out the tracks.  Don’t Explain is scheduled for U.S. release on September 27 on J&R Adventures, the independent label founded by Bonamassa and his longtime manager and business partner, Roy Weisman.

“Beth’s got a pretty heady voice, very reminiscent of Janis Joplin, says Shirley, who has produced Bonamassa’s last five albums.  “She’s also got a lot of Etta James in her, but hadn’t really accessed it.  With this material, there is a gentleness to the way she delivers the most heartfelt tunes that she hasn’t shown before.  It’s very cool, she’s done a fantastic job.”

We Say :- When I first heard about this project some time ago, I was rather intrigued. Joe and Beth have met several times on the touring circuit, and plans have been afoot for some time to produce a collaboration album. Joe of course is one of the hardest working musicians around, and quite how he produces music of such an amazing quality is beyond me. I am still in no doubt that he is one of the finest guitar players on the entire planet though.

This album though, was a complete shock.  Beth is well known for her blues/rock style of music, and Joe is of course most known for exactly the same thing, so I was expecting them to turn out something along the lines of a blues/rock album (well who wouldn’t?). What they’ve done though, is make an album of soul covers. It’s a brave thing to attempt, especially with the quality of the original material that’s been chosen for the album. It’s due for release on 26th September in the UK on Mascot/Provogue Records.

Beth’s voice is very raw as a rule, akin to Janis Joplin, Sass Jordan and similar vocalists of that ilk, but on this album there is also some hints of Erma Franklin and Etta James. Adding Joe’s unique guitar tone to the mix is nothing short of genius. It brings a whole new dimension to some already classic songs. This is something that just has to be heard to be appreciated, as there’s no way I can describe it well enough to do it justice.

Just looking at the track listing is enough to send shivers down the spine of any lover of blues/soul, but hearing them done so differently may not be to everyone’s taste. I am a huge fan of great cover versions, but they have to be done right. This album is 10 cover versions done exactly how cover versions should be done. I’ll tell you exactly what’s on the album, to give you some idea of the quality tunes to expect, and in fact you can get a free track right now from http://hartandbonamassa.com/ if you’d like to listen for yourself.

The tracks are as follows: Ray Charles’ “Sinner’s Prayer” – Tom Waits’ “Chocolate Jesus” – Melody Gardot’s “Your Heart Is As Black As Night” – Bill Withers’ “For My Friend” – Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” – Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” & “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” – Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’ll Take Care Of You” – Delaney & Bonnie’s “Well Well” – Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way”

As you can see from the track listing there are some heavy hitters and taking them on was either very brave, or very stupid. The end result was only ever going to be simply brilliant, or horrendously bad.

Thankfully, it’s brilliant.

It’s a really interesting album to listen to, and impossible to pigeonhole anywhere. Of course some credit has to go to Caveman Kevin Shirley who is rapidly becoming THE producer that rock artists want to work on their albums. All in all, this an album of outstanding quality, and one of the most ambitious that I’ve heard in a long time. I doubt there are many other duos that could have gotten anywhere near to making this album work, let alone nail it. This is a tremendous achievement, and one that everyone involved with should be extremely proud of.