JOE BONAMASSA HAS WORSHIPPED BRITISH blues and rock ‘n’ roll for as long as he can remember. When he was around 12, he raided his father’s vinyl collection, which introduced him to — among other things — different aspects of the U.K.’s musical output. He began listening to some of England’s finest six-string exports — namely Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page — as he started pursuing his own career in music. “The British were my gateway into the blues,” says Bonamassa, who even dedicated an entire 2016 U.K. tour to his British guitar heroes. Some of that tour’s highlights — including Bonamassa’s scorching takes on the Jeff Beck Group’s “Let Me Love You,” Cream’s “SWLABR” and Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” — can be heard on 2018’s British Blues Explosion Live.
That same year, right around the time we called Bonamassa to discuss British Blues Explosion Live, the guitarist joined former Whitesnake six-stringer Bernie Marsden, former Cream drummer Ginger Baker and ex-Cream lyricist Pete Brown (who cowrote “SWLABR” with Jack Bruce) for a rollicking session at London’s Abbey Road Studios, the hallowed ground where the Beatles and Pink Floyd — among countless other artists — tracked their masterpieces. Bonamassa fondly recalls that original session, which wound up being the last time he saw Baker, who died October 6, 2019. (“It was, as you would expect, as advertised,” he says.) He enjoyed it so much that he began talking with Marsden and Brown about doing it again. “[I said], what would it be like if I came over and kind of camped out in London — and we wrote a record? I’d made the last couple of records in Nashville. And I thought, maybe if I come to England, [it would] change the sound a little bit — or at least change my headspace. It was a bucketlist thing that I really wanted to do.”
Bonamassa, Marsden and Brown reconvened with producer Kevin Shirley in London in January 2020 to write and record Bonamassa’s bluesy new album — Royal Tea, released October 23 via J&R Adventures — at Abbey Road. Joining them was Bonamassa’s touring band, including drummer Anton Fig, bassist Michael Rhodes and former Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble keyboardist Reese Wynans. Bonamassa co-wrote with Marsden, Brown and former Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland, who also plays on the album. “Writing this record in London has done its job,” Bonamassa says. “It really does sound inherently British. Bernie and I, we finish each other’s sentences. We’re cut from the same cloth.”
RECORDING AT ABBEY ROAD
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