Chicago-based slide guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter, Joanna Connor, who is best known as one of the reigning Queens of blues rock guitar, releases her 14th album ‘4801 South IndianaAvenue’ on Joe Bonamassa’s new independent blues record label Keeping The Blues Alive on 26th February 2021. The album is available to pre-order.
The new album, the follow up to her critically acclaimed studio album Rise, was produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith at Ocean Way Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Joanna, Joe and the rest of the musicians on the album dug deeply and conjured up an authentic, alive and kicking non-derivative set of Chicago Blues.
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.”
Joanna has played guitar with the who’s who of blues including the likes of James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Page, and Junior Wells. Debuting at Chicago’s premiere blues club Kingston Mines in the 1980s, she played there three nights a week ever since, in between gigs at larger clubs and festivals, before the spread of the pandemic earlier this year.
An aggressively edgy and highly innovative blues rock guitarist with a tight groove that encompasses jazz and funk, Joanna’s hailed by many as one of the most powerful and influential female guitarists on the planet.
The new album reflects an entirely new experience from the way Joanna has recorded music in the past. “This album is a homage to the blues school that I attended in Chicago,” says Joanna. “We attempted to capture the spirit of tradition and inject it with raw energy and passion.”
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.”
“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.”
Joanna has a reputation in music circles for being a great guitar player. What did she try to achieve with her guitar playing on the new album? Says Joanna, “We used no effects, lots of cool guitars and vintage amps, which is new for me. We tried to redo it to portray the deep history I have in the blues genre, bring out the thousands of sweaty hours in those blues clubs in Chicago and deliver it to the record.”
On the new album, Joe pushed Joanna which enabled her to deliver a more powerful vocal on every track. “It was the hardest I’ve ever pushed my voice ever,” says Joanna.
But why did Joe Bonamassa want to produce Joanna’s new album? “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.”
The new album features the crème de le crème of musicians. Joanna cites working with them as an unforgettable experience.
“Playing with Reese Wynans was an honour and a privilege and brought me to tears. Having Josh Smith and Joe playing guitar on every cut and arranging everything was a gift to me. Bassist Calvin Turner was incredibly groovy and solid and was responsible for the horn arrangements. Lemar Carter is one of the hottest drummers on the music scene and plays with Frank Ocean and so many others. He’s a master of time and taste and groove. We recorded every song in a max of three takes. We were all in the same room together, except for Joe who was in the control room playing and producing. Making this album felt like a sweet gig.”
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)
Track by Track All the songs on the new album were lovingly hand-picked by Joe and Josh Smith and were ran by me for final approval. Each song was true to the original but were given a few twists and turns with subtle and not so subtle shifts in approach, rhythm, and attack.
Destination - This is a real house rocking tune written by a somewhat overlooked band called The Assassins, led by Jimmy Thackeray. It was made sweeter by the soulful background vocals of Jimmy Hall. Joe and Josh joined on as well. It’s a great showcase for my frantic and frenetic guitar work.
Come Back Home - This song features killer blues piano performed by Reese Wynans. Joe encouraged me to play some raw and old school slide guitar.
Bad News -This is a Luther Allison song, and we chose because we were all huge fans of his. I toured with him in Europe for almost ten years as his opening act, so it was an honour to record this haunting piece. Joe came up with the bell idea to further capture the mood.
I Feel So Good - This is one heavy boogie tune. The opening note I held was a fun challenge! This tune absolutely burns. Joe used some interesting microphone technique on the vocal and overdrove it purposely. The drummer (Lemar Carter) and I were flying by the seat of our pants so to speak and miraculously ended the fade out together. I particularly love the way the musicians come roaring back- all Joe’s idea!
For The Love of a Man - This is our Albert King tune! What blues album would be complete without one?
Trouble Trouble - This song features slinky horns and stellar Josh Smith guitar licks. It’s another facet of the classic blues genre that we wanted to cover.
Please Help - This is our tribute to Hound Dog Taylor. I believe he would have liked it.
Cut You Loose - This is one of my favourite songs that features a hypnotic rhythmic shift.
Part Time Love - This song is a real staple in the repertoire in Chicago. I think we did it justice. A cracking horn section really makes it shine.
It’s My Time - This song was written by Josh Smith. It was Joe’s Idea to have me do a spoken word and make some of the verses personal to me. Joe and I perform a slide duet, conjuring up Ry Cooder.
Recorded and Mixed by JJ Blair Assistant Engineer Austin Atwood Mastered by Bob Ludwig at Ludwig Mastering Produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith Executive Producer - Roy Weisman Recorded at OceanWay Studios Nashville, TN
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