Joe Bonamassa – Time Clocks (Album Review)

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Joe Bonamassa has been on a terror since he burst onto the scene in 2000 with his debut record, “A New Day Yesterday.” Twenty years later, he drops his 15th studio record, a new chapter in his bulging discography that offers a few new shades of the blues with a bit of spit shine polish and a bit less eccentricity.

Being unabashedly committed to the blues, Bonamassa faces an uphill battle in putting out music that doesn’t sound tired or repetitive. The very nature of the blues means there’s a certain degree of predictability and historic tradition that can be limiting. In the past, a typical Bonamassa studio record would feature a lot of variety in order to combat this potential pitfall. That often ended up being both a blessing and a curse in that some songs, while offering new flavors, sometimes fell short on strength in songwriting. For this listener, a typical Joe Bonamassa studio album had some essential tracks, paired with some skippers. With “Time Clocks,” the gap has lessened, and this record has a more cohesive quality from track to track. That’s a compliment to the song selection, as well as the performances on this.

“Time Clocks” Album Artwork

There are a few new things that make the record fresh, though nothing to risk redefining Bonamassa, or his well worn genre. It’s a blues rock record, with perhaps a bit more rock than some of this previous efforts. Hints of Jimmy Page and David Gilmour leak through the roof of his excellent guitar playing, while the foundation remains solid thanks to another bedrock performance from Anton Fig on the drums and Steve Mackey on bass. The walls of the building are buttressed by a strong lead vocal performance from Bonamassa, who has only grown in his conviction and confidence behind the mic, as well as the usually stellar backup vocals of Mahalia Barnes, and Juanita Barnes. Prinnie Stevens appears in place of the historically stunning Jade McRae, who may have been absent due to travel restrictions—the same ones that stranded long-time producer Kevin Shirley in Australia, where he contributed remotely thanks to COVID. The entire building even gets a fresh coat of paint in the prog-tinged album artwork by the legendary Hugh Syme, who was the mastermind behind many of Rush’s most iconic covers. And Bob Clearmountain’s pristine mix adds even more curb appeal to this structural gem.  

While there are some touches of country and celtic on “Time Clocks,” it’s squarely an old-school sounding rock record with good guitar tone, accessible choruses and stand at the front of the stage solos that are polished and well produced without sounding stripped of their live fire. It’s sonically sharp with a song selection that’s consistent and strong throughout, with very little incentive to skip any tracks. That’s an accomplishment unto itself, given the limiting nature of the blues. Most of the tracks are a bit longer, with three clocking in at over 7 minutes each, and three others in the 6-minute territory. None of them feel too long, however, and pretty much all of them are highly accessible upon first listen, and improve with multiple exposure. Personal favorites for this listener include “Notches,” “The Heart That Never Waits,” “Mind’s Eye,” “The Loyal Kind” and “Known Unknowns,” but every track deserves its place here. More than ever, Joe seems to have put a greater emphasis on the songs, and it clearly works to his benefit here.

“Time Clocks” may be the perfect starting place for anyone curious about how the self-proclaimed guitar collector from Nerdville has managed to build up unstoppable momentum with nearly nonstop record release and tour cycles. It features the trademark elements of Bonamassa’s sound that has thrilled audiences globally, with just enough maturity and added sophistication that comes from a team devoted to upping its game every chance it gets. Pandemic be damned, some really good records have risen from the ashes of live music in the age of COVID, and Joe’s latest is certainly one of the strongest of his career. And that just leaves this listener feeling happy to have these blues.

Released By: Provogue / J&R Adventures
Released On: October 29th, 2021
Genre: Blues Rock

Musicians:

  • Joe Bonamassa / Guitars and Vocals
  • Steve Mackey / Bass
  • Anton Fig / Drums
  • Lachy Doley / Piano
  • Bunna Lawrie  / Didgeridoo
  • Bobby Summerfield / Percussion
  • Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins, and Prinnie Stevenson / Backing Vocals

“Time Clocks” track listing:

  1. Pilgrimage
  2. Notches
  3. The Heart That Never Waits
  4. Time Clocks
  5. Questions and Answers
  6. Mind’s Eye
  7. Curtain Call
  8. The Loyal Kind
  9. Hanging on a Loser
  10. Known Unknowns

“Time Clocks” is available on CD, vinyl and digital and  can be ordered HERE.

8.8 Excellent

“Time Clocks” may be the perfect starting place for anyone curious about how the self-proclaimed guitar collector from Nerdville has managed to build up unstoppable momentum with nearly nonstop record release and tour cycles. It features the trademark elements of Bonamassa’s sound that has thrilled audiences globally, with just enough maturity and added sophistication that comes from a team devoted to upping its game every chance it gets.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9.5
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