This young Upper New York State guitarist has a ripping style and a blues-rock sensibility that put him closer than anybodyís come ó at least on album ó to the crossover throne thatís been empty since the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan. The energy, the emotional impact, and the sheer sonic power of his playing are impressive, especially when he lets his freak flag fly over a wind of feedback in "Pain and Sorrow," which unfurls like a tribute to both Vaughan and Hendrix.
But heís no mere copycat. Bonamassaís basic, growling blast of a guitar sound seems akin to what Bob Mould tore out of his amps in Sugar. And a similar kind of pop songcraft is at the heart of most of the tunes here. "My Mistake" and "The Hard Way" blend big acoustic and electric textures in a way that begs for airplay while still holding a torch for the bluesí spirit and raw edges. "Never Say Goodbye" and "Lie #1" suffer a bit from clichéíd lyrics, but the latticework of melodies and sharply articulated fills snaking around Bonamassaís fat rhythm chords keeps pulling the ear in good directions. His live concerts will reveal just how much guts and heart he puts into his music, and since he has a date booked for Harpers Ferry this month, we wonít have to wait long to measure his mettle.
(Joe Bonamassa plays Harpers Ferry on Tuesday September 24. Call 617-254-9743)