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With the recent release of the stunning blues rock album Black Rock, Joe Bonamassa's fame is poised to go from big-time cult status to the land of mainstream superstars.
At 32, he's paid enough dues for three men, playing his first gig aged 11 and then hitting the road with the band Bloodline while still a teen. As a solo artist, his guitar playing, along with his singing and songwriting, has matured into a full-bodied style that can stir the senses in ways that are as profound emotionally as they are technically impressive.
"That's the thing about the blues," Bonamassa says. "It's one thing to hit a note on a guitar. To make it matter is something else altogether."
On the following pages, Bonamassa discusses his 11 biggest blues influences and cites their most important recordings. "These are the guys who schooled me," he says. "Whatever I am now and wherever I'm going, it's all because of what came first. These are the players who taught me everything I know."