Longing for legacy

March 19, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

Legacy is on Joe Bonamassa's mind.

The 31-year-old blues rock guitarist wants to create a legacy of albums that people enjoy, but that also give him a reputation of quality music. That whenever someone plays one of his albums they think, "At least he tries his best," Bonamassa said during a recent phone interview.

His drive for a legacy was key to his latest album, "The Ballad of John Henry," from which Bonamassa will perform six songs during his concert next Thursday night at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown.

Bonamassa said he wanted to make a lasting album.

"In the sense that most records last six months. I wanted to do something great, that would stand the test of time," Bonamassa said.


"The Ballad of John Henry" peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart, according to It peaked at No. 103 on the Billboard 200, making it Bonamassa's highest-charting album on that chart, according to Anthony Colombo, chart manager.

Bonamassa is known for his guitar work -- he opened for B.B. King when he was 12 -- but he also is a singer/songwriter.

In marketing material for the album, Bonamassa stated he "personally opened up the book on my life" for the album, getting personal with "Last Kiss," "Happier Times" and "The Great Flood."

"It's the first time I felt comfortable opening up to the point I didn't feel self-conscious about it," Bonamassa said, then reconsidered. "That's not true. I'm always self-conscious. I just didn't care."

At 31, Bonamassa said he's got some life experience now. Some songs address a relationship that flamed out. "The Great Flood" is an apology to a former girlfriend with whom he's now friends.

"You figured out everybody's had the same experiences by and large," he said. "If I write about it in a noncliché way, people respond to it.

"Everybody has girl trouble. The only thing is when you mess with a guy who writes music for a living, get ready to have your (stuff) strewn over the Internet," he said.

In addition to performing several of his new songs next week, Bonamassa said his two-hour show at The Maryland Theatre will include the best of his previous studio albums. The sets will include two acoustic songs.

This is not the first chance area blues fans have had to hear Bonamassa in person. He was a headliner at the Western Maryland Blues Fest in 2006 and 2007.

"We had a great time. The first year it poured on us, but the second year was great," Bonamassa said. "It really boils down to the fact that (the Blues Fest) is such a community event. Whether you're a blues fan or not, people seem to come out."

If you go ...

WHAT: Blues rock musician Joe Bonamassa performs

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, March 26

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: $29.50 to $49.50

CONTACT: For tickets, go to or call 301-790-2000.

To learn more about Joe Bonamassa, go to

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