Constant evolution

Bluesman Bonamassa returns to music festival with new cuts and old songs

Bluesman Bonamassa returns to music festival with new cuts and old songs

May 27, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Guitar slinger Joe Bonamassa started playing at age 4, opened for BB King at age 12 and cranked out eight blues albums by the time he reached 30.

The bluesman isn't showing signs of stopping.

"For 30 years old, I've been in the business a long time," said Bonamassa during a phone interview. "But I don't think you ever get complacent and think, 'I've found it,' and go on autopilot as an artist."

For Bonamassa, music is a constant evolution.

He's bringing his brand of blues to downtown Hagerstown Saturday for the 12th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest. The four-day event kicks off Thursday in downtown Hagerstown. A total of 18 bands are on the bill - 10 of them repeats from past years.

Bonamassa made his Blues Fest debut in 2006. Those who check out his 90-minute set will hear how Bonamassa has evolved artistically and might get a glimpse of where he's going next, as he plans on performing a bit of the old along with some new work.


"I think every artist with the exception of a very lucky few - like Willie Nelson, people like that - always are in search of their own voice," Bonamassa said.

Bonamassa's most recent album, "You & Me," debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Blues Chart in 2006.

Kevin Ace - who has worked with Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and Aerosmith - produced the album, which Bonamassa said is his most successful since his solo debut in 2000.

Bluesman Walter Trout, who makes his third Western Maryland Blues Fest appearance Friday, described Bonamassa's sound as blues with a tinge of rock 'n' roll.The two collaborated on "Clouds on the Horizon," a song on Trout's 2006 album "Full Circle."

"I think he's one of the best there is," Trout said. "He's just an awesome player. I was really excited to have him on the album."

Trout said they co-wrote "Clouds on the Horizon" on the spot during a studio session. Then, someone hit record the first time they rehearsed the song. That's the version that ended up on the album, Trout said.

"The sound was so good, that was the first and the last time we ever played that song," Trout said.

Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts will prevent the two from performing that song together during Blues Fest.

"He's definitely one of those guys you look up to. I hope I have a chance to run into him," said Bonamassa, who said he had a gig in Virginia the night Trout is performing.

Throughout his career, Bonamassa has played with Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and other blues greats. But Bonamassa said he's not intimidated around such blues luminaries - like the time he opened (and later toured) with BB King.

"You don't tend to tremble in his presence," Bonamassa said. "BB King, he's an icon. But he's the most gracious person I've met."

"If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today," Bonamassa said.

Recently, Bonamassa has been preparing for his next project, "Sloe Gin," an acoustic album he hopes to release in August. Bonamassa said the next album will be more song-based and melodic than "You & Me."

Music and video clips of Bonamassa'sprior albums are available at his Web site,

For more on Blues Fest, see the upcoming festival preview in Thursday's editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

12th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest schedule of events

From 4 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 1; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 3.

Concerts are at Central Parking Lot on North Potomac Street in downtown Hagerstown on Friday and Saturday. Sunday's Family Blues Picnic is at the band shell in Hagerstown's City Park.

Friday tickets are $17.50 in advance and $20 at the gate. Saturday tickets are $27.50 in advance and $30 at the gate; $9.50 in advance for ages 6 to 12 and $7 at the gate; and free for ages 5 and younger. Combination tickets for both days are $37.50. These prices include service charges. Free admission Sunday.

Schedule and artists subject to change. No chairs, coolers, food or beverages may be brought into the festival area Friday and Saturday. Animals (except service animals), and audio and video recording are prohibited. All packs, parcels and bags are subject to inspection.

Thursday, May 31

Blues prelude at University Plaza. Free admission.

·Bushmaster - 11:30 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.

·The Rhythm Kings - 12:35 to 1:30 p.m.

Friday, June 1

Lotta Blues Show at City of Hagerstown's Central Lot, off North Potomac Street. Limited admission. $17.50 in advance or $20 at the gate. Gates open at 4 p.m. Photo ID required.

Lineup includes:

·Ronnie Ray & the Coolers - 4:30 to 5:15 p.m.

·Bobby Flurie Band - 5:30 to 6:15 p.m.

·Nora Jean Bruso - 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

·Walter Trout & the Radicals - 8 to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 2

Downtown House Party at Central Lot.

Lineup includes:

·Jumptown - noon to 1 p.m.

·Ruby Hayes Blues Band - 1 to 2 p.m.

·David "Honeyboy" Edwards - 2 to 3 p.m.

·Campbell Brothers - 3 to 4 p.m.

·John Mooney & Bluesiana - 4 to 5:15 p.m.

·Charlie Hunter Trio - 5:15 to 6:30 p.m.

·James Cotton Band - 6:30 to 8 p.m.

·Joe Bonamassa - 8 to 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 3

Family Blues Picnic at the City Park band shell. Free admission.

Lineup includes:

·Hip Pocket Blues - noon to 12:45 p.m.

·Rudy & the Bluefish - 1 to 2 p.m.

·Mary Ann Redmond Band - 2:15 to 3:15 p.m.

·Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang - 3:30 to 5 p.m.

At Washington County Museum of Fine Arts:

·1 to 1:45 p.m.- Chicago blues saxman Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang host a lecture, demonstration and workshop

·Noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. - The Boonsboro High School Sax Quartet performs.

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