The dynamism and at times mind-boggling enthusiasm Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa display laying down the ten covers that comprise Black Coffee – in just five days, it should be noted – is quite mesmerising. Their first studio album in four years this might be, but man-oh-man has it been worth waiting for.
Edgar Winter’s Give It Everything You Got kicks things off and Hart’s vocals sound as though she’s performing for the last time rather than being at what is, hopefully, her peak. The energy and drive in her voice is deliciously controlled, with room in which the lyrics to shine bright and true above the immaculate band behind her. “No use holdin’ back,” Hart growls in Verse III, as if there’s any chance of that anytime soon.
It’s the balance that’s been struck between the songs on the list and way producer Kevin Shirley has eked freshness out of them. Take the Ella Fitzgerald’s classic Lullaby of the Leaves and listen to not only Hart’s sumptuous handling of the tone of the song but also Bonamassa’s gentle caress across the melody.
Aided and abetted by Reese Wynans on keys, Anton Fig’s slick percussion, Michael Rhodes’ supreme bass playing and Bonamassa’s live trio of backing singers Mahalia Baines, Jade Macrae and Juanita Tippins providing some emotive harmonies, the gospel funk and joy that is Saved – originally by LaVern Baker, but a song so good it’s been covered by anyone good enough to attempt it since, Elkie Brooks, Brenda Lee and Elvis included – stands out from the crowd.
Both Steve Marriott’s Black Coffee and Etta James’ Damn Your Eyes squeak with the layer-upon-layer of polish this immaculate ensemble have administered, whereas Soul on Fire gives that synchronicity of vibe; it’s gentle, sweeping nature soothing the most savage of hearts.
There may be those who wish Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa had laid out original songs for this latest outing. Personally, when the songs are delivered with as much clean innovativeness as Black Coffee has, then frankly they can do whatever they want, pretty much, and still satisfy.
“Black Coffee will be released on 26th January 2018
Give It Everything You Got
Damn Your Eyes
Lullaby of the Leaves
Why Don’t You Do Right
Sittin’ On Top of the World
Soul On Fire