Album Reviews

Joanna Connor “4801 South Indiana Avenue” Album Review

Collaboration with Joe Bonamassa & Josh Smith delivers a Rollicking album full of Intensity, passion and raw energy

Joanna Connor’s New Album “4801 South Indiana Avenue” is released on February 26th on KBTA records

PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM NOW ON CD AND DIGITAL

Chicago-based slide guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter, Joanna Connor, who is best known as one of the reigning Queens of blue rock guitar, releases her 14th album 4801 South Indiana Avenue on Joe Bonamassa’s new independent blues record label Keeping The Blues Alive on February 26, 2021.   The Album, Produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith at Ocean Way Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, sees Joanna, Joe, and the other musicians involved dig deep to conjure up an authentic, non-derivative set of Chicago blues that kicks hard and fast.

Says Joanna, “We chose the album title ‘4801 South Indiana Avenue’ because it was the actual street address of the hallowed funky blues sanctuary ‘Theresa’s Lounge.’ We want the listener to open that door, walk in and feel to their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you, the listener.”

When Joanna was asked how Joe came to produce her album, she remembers it like it was yesterday. “We recorded the album in Nashville. Joe retweeted one of my videos last May and it went viral on his site. I thanked him in a message, gave him my contact info, and he immediately responded.” She says, “He opened for me years ago at the House of Blues Backporch Stage in Chicago, where I played weekly for years! Joe was totally aware of me for years. He wanted to make an album for me that he felt I needed to make and had never really made.” “I remember asking Joepoint-blank, ‘Out of all the guitar players in the world why me?’ He said, “Because you have an intensity about your playing that most people don’t have. As a matter of fact, I wish I had some of that in myself where you just let it go, and you don’t even think about it.”

Joanna Connor by Allison Morgan

All the songs on the album were hand picked by Bonamassa and Smith, before getting Connor’s seal of approval.  Whilst staying true to the original, each track features subtle and less-than-subtle twists to make them uniquely Joanna’s.  With no effects, a variety of guitars and vintage amps, Connor wanted to portray the journey she has made in the thousands of hours spent playing in dark, sweaty blues clubs in Chicago. 

And portray it she has, from the opening track, “Destination”, a frenetic rocker of a track, with Joe and Josh providing backing vocals,  to the album closer, the Josh Smith-penned “it’s My Time” this is an album packed to the brim with passion, intensity and raw energy.  “Come Back Home”, a classic blues banger, has a pulsing rhythm overlaid with screaming guitars and Connors howling vocal. Every Blues album must have its share of pain and heartache and Connor’s take on Luther Allison’s “Bad News” fills that requirement well.   From the opening ominous tolling bell this is a slow broken-hearted blues, Reese Wynans’ keys punctuating Joanna’s emotion-drenched vocal and guitar.  Oh yes, baby, it hurts.  But it hurts good! Latest single “I Feel So Good” opens with a heavy boogie riff and continues at a frantic pace, drums pounding at pace throughout as guitars and vocals fight for space.  A truly breathless piece that sums up the full-on nature of the album.

For the Love of a Man” illustrates the twists that Joanna and the boys have brought to the classics on this Albert King standard – Faster, heavier and with a stack of brass, this is a fresh take that still keeps to the original groove.  “Trouble Trouble” and “Please Help” are relentless, fast-paced classics, the former featuring slinky horns and a stellar riff from Josh Smith. The pace changes a bit for the rhythm -shifting “Cut Me Loose” before returning to the classic format for “Part Time Love”,  the Clay Hammond song that has become a standard in Chicago Blues clubs and features Joe Bonamassa taking the solo on this one.  The last song on the album “It’s My time”, written by Josh Smith and delivered in Spoken/Sung vocal by Joanna, is a very different style.  With the heavy drum groove, Hammond tones, and a haunting vocal it has a more soulful vibe.

Overall, This is a rowdy, rollicking album, full of intensity, energy and passion that hits the spot well, and showcases Joanna’s vocal as much as her guitar.  With the triple guitar attack of Connor, Bonamassa, and Smith, and the exquisite keyboard of Reese Wynans, there is a lot going on on every track and it takes a listen or three to really pick up the nuances and deep grooves of the album.  It is definitely time well-spent though, as every listen brings a new texture to light.

Joanna Connor by Maryam Wilche

Track Listing
1. Destination (3:31)
2. Come Back Home (4:19)
3. Bad News (6:26)
4. I Feel So Good (3:35)
5. For The Love Of A Man (4:20)
6. Trouble Trouble (3:40)
7. Please Help (4:14)
8. Cut You Loose (4:09)
9. Part Time Love (5:06)
10. It’s My Time (4:39)

Recorded and mixed by JJ Blair
Assistant Engineer Austin Attwood
Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Ludwig Mastering
Produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith
Executive Producer – Roy Weisman
Recorded at OceanWay Studios Nashville, TN

Musicians

Joanna Connor – Vocals, Guitar all tracks
Joe Bonamassa – Guitar on all tracks (Solos on 9 & 10)
Josh Smith – Guitar on all tracks
Reese Wynans – Keyboards
Calvin Turner – Bass
Lemar Carter – Drums and Percussion
Steve Patrick – Trumpet
Mark Douthit – Saxophone
Barry Green – Trombone
Jimmy Hall – Vocals on Track 1
Horn Arrangements by Calvin Turner

Joanna Connor – Social Media
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Keeping the Blues Alive Records

The new independent record label is an offshoot of Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, Joe Bonamassa’s non-profit that aims to conserve the art of music in schools and preserve the rich culture and history of the blues. Bonamassa along with his long-time manager, Roy Weisman, have expanded their business by creating the new label, Keeping the Blues Alive (KTBA) Records. The first release on the label was Dion’s album “Blues with Friends” that was released to critical acclaim in June 2020.

KTBA Records’ main objective is to provide a platform for musical talent in blues and blues-rock based music and helping promote the careers of extraordinary musical talent. The label works synergistically with the non-profit’s mission of supporting musicians to continue the legacy of the blues. 10% of all profits from KTBA Records are donated to the non-profit. 

KTBA Records is an important step in the co-evolution of the music and the business of making it. It represents another of Bonamassa’s continuing efforts over the last 25 years in support the artistic community. It reflects the philosophy of paying it forward just as so many did for Joe in the hope of paving the way for blues artists in the future. Visit www.KTBArecords.com for further information.

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