Keeping the blues alive

By Chelsea Haith |

Seesaw was released in May 2013 and follows on the back of 2011's Don't Explain from the duo.  Image: Sourced

Seesaw was released in May 2013 and follows on the back of 2011’s Don’t Explain from the duo.
Image: Sourced

Channelling the pit-of-the-stomach soul of Billie Holiday and the growling anger of the oppressed American South, Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa are back with another collaboration of covers, much to this avid fan’s delight.

Getting back to basics, Seesaw is a collection of covers originally made great by the likes of the late Etta James and Ike & Tina Turner and was recorded in the same style as the originals; the songs coming in in one take, a feat of professionalism and talent for a band of this size. The eight-piece backing band complements Hart’s lived-in voice, leaving the fire-breathing vocals inhibited and unconfined.

These covers give a deep and respectful tip of the hat to the hits of the ‘50s and ‘60s jazz, soul and blues greats and yet Hart and Bonamassa take nothing away from the feeling and leave all of the soul in the music, allowing the history to speak through the tracks in their reinterpretations.

Finding Hart’s gorgeous tones and Bonamassa’s superb guitar work is like finding a parking space in the rain and I emerge from the sea of blues riffs and spine-tingling brass arrangements in the same way, triumphant and relieved. There is hope for music yet.

The Hart-Bonamassa super-duo are back after the brief hiatus of 2012 in which they worked and on and released their own albums, both artists involved in several projects which span the globe, solo and collaborative. As side-projects go, this one is gourmet.

The album comes on the back of their success with their 2011 album Don’t Explain, which ranked 22nd in the UK Album chart. In his review of Don’t Explain Slant Magazine’s Jonathan O’Keefe lauded Hart as a “peerless front woman” and she remains true to that accolade in Seesaw, backed by a band as peerless as she is. The band includes the likes of South African born guitarist and singer of The Beach Boys Blondie Chaplin and Lee Thornburg of Supertramp on brass as well as the great Joe Bonamassa, the brains behind the now disbanded super group Black Country Communion and solo blues guitar and vocal artist who specialises in bone-rattling hard rock.

Seesaw follows the same pattern laid down by Don’t Explain and the only criticism to be made is that they are no different from one another. In terms of sequencing and the choice of songs each of the albums could easily have been released as the other, but then again, this project does not seem to be about change, but rather about nostalgia, perfect Sunday morning listening.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa both have various other projects and this collaboration is but a side-note in the volumes of their work.  Picture: Sourced

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa both have various other projects and this collaboration is but a side-note in the volumes of their work.
Image: Sourced

The albums are collections of songs abandoned by mainstream music like empty champagne flutes lost in a hotel foyer and Hart and Bonamassa are on a crusade return their favourite blues, soul and jazz hits to their original owners while leaving their fingerprints on the sparkling crystal.

Key moments on the album are Hart’s guttural scream, the aching anger of racial violence exhibited in ‘Strange Fruit’, and the body shaker ‘Nutbush City Limits’. The cheeky brass infused ‘Rhymes’ track inspires through its message to keep on keeping on.

This album is available everywhere, but it is the sort of album that you should buy and treasure, a look back to when actual musicians created music. Hart and Bonamassa do not need to do this work, they do it because they love it and because they love these songs and you can hear that in every track. For those uninitiated in the blues and jazz traditions Seesaw and its predecessor Don’t Explain are the perfect education.

Related Links: 

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa discuss their inspiration for the album and the production process: 

Beth Hart models her performance on the likes of Billie Holiday: 

Order the CD from their website here:

Follow Beth Hart on Twitter:

Follow Joe Bonamassa on Twitter:


2 thoughts on “Keeping the blues alive

  1. Pingback: Listening To Now: A Change Is Gonna Come | Third News

  2. Pingback: Me me me | The Negative Capability

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