Joe Bonamassa freely, and unapologetically, declares himself "a blues-rock guitar player." And these days he's in a decidedly bluesy frame of mind.
"Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks," Bonamassa's latest release, features a Colorado performance focusing on the music of blues pioneers Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, mixed with some of Bonamassa's own material. This summer he'll launch a Three Kings show paying tribute to the music of B.B., Albert and Freddie King, and he's working on a new studio album that he calls "just kind of an extension of the bluesy headspeace I've been in for the last couple of years."
"Y'know, sometimes I choose to play blues, sometimes I choose to play rock," says Bonamassa, 37, who began playing guitar when he was four years old and made his first recordings as a teenager in the band Bloodline before going solo in 2000. "I was in a bluesy frame of mind the last couple years, and the Muddy Wolf shows were just a no-brainer.
"And the crowd loves it. They really love it. And I'm in the people-pleasing business, so that's what I'm gonna do."
But, Bonamassa adds, he also makes sure to do it his own way.
"You have to have pretty good license to put your own spin on it," he explains. "There's only one Howling Wolf. There's only one Muddy Waters. It's very sacred ground for a lot of folks, but for me it's an opportunity to kind of play traditional blues and discover that catalog again but also do it the way I want to do it. I really tried to stay off the well-worn."
Bonamassa says the Three Kings show is in the "initial" planning stages, and he'll film and record his Aug. 29 show at Los Angeles Greek Theatre, just as he did the Muddy Wolf show last August in Colorado -- which was his 14th No. 1 album on the Billboard Blues Albums chart. The new album, however, is his main priority right now.
"I have six or seven tunes now; I'm hoping to get 20," Bonamassa reports. "I'm not recording until July, so I have plenty of time. Hopefully it will be like a rebirth that kind of sets a tone for the next five or seven years to come. It seems like every few years it's time to reinvent yourself like that. Otherwise you run the risk of just becoming a cliche."
8 p.m. Saturday, April 18.
The Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $82.50-$128.50.
Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to