It doesn't seem long ago that Joe Bonamassa released the excellent Royal Tea and he's already tracked the follow-up with Notches as the first single. The co-write with Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr feels like a future live favourite already with an addictive riff, stomping chorus and great lyricism about Joe's journey so far as a hard-touring bluesman.
For recording the song, Joe regrouped with longtime collaborators Kevin Shirley as producer and manager/business partner Roy Weisman as executive producer. The track was mixed by industry icon Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Toto, Bon Jovi).
Recorded in New York City at Germano Studios/The Hit Factory the band includes Steve Mackey (bass), Lachy Doley (piano), Bunna Lawrie (didgeridoo), Bobby Summerfield (percussion), and Late Night with David Letterman's Anton Fig (drums and percussion), along with Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins, and Prinnie Stevens on backing vocals.
Joe wanted to strip things back with his own rig for this "subway album" as he explained to us late last year ahead of recording.
“By the time we tour again there will be two albums that we haven’t toured on,“ he said, referencing Royal Tea, which was released in October 2020, and this as-yet-untitled album. “We are making a record in New York City in late March, and it is basically going to be a ‘subway record’ – a couple of guitars, a couple of amps.“
“That’s just how I used to do it,“ added Bonamassa. “Take the subway down to the studio – cash and carry! The records in my world? Y’know, you’ve got production cases and I have a collection of guitars, and you have got all of these options, and it is almost too much.
“You don’t need half of it, and you end up just playing, ‘Yeah, whatever!’ Now, it's two amps, in case one blows up. Not two amps at a time, just in case one blows up. Add a couple of guitars and you’re good.”
To be fair, Notches is still a wonderfully rich and layered sound even tabla percussion in the mix. It's also a song and sound that strikes at the heart of Joe's blues story.
“Twenty years ago, I recorded a record of covers that eventually was called Blues Deluxe," reflects Joe. "It was recorded at Bobby Nathan's studio in Manhattan. It captured an energy and purpose that always stuck with me as an artist…The music business is tough, very tough. Especially back in those days when major labels pulled all the strings and, in my case, all the punches.”