The American Review

What kind of voice can hold up against the current king of blues rock guitar, a powerhouse big band and some of the classiest, sassiest songs in the soul canon? Step up, Beth Hart. She and Joe Bonamassa take a collection of disparate tunes and make them their own by sheer force and musicality.Thealbum’sa killer from the opening bars of Them There Eyes, a 1930 standard performed by artists of the stature of Louis, Ella, Peggy and Sinatra to Diana Ross and Chaka Khan, but seldom with such punch. Close to My Fire follows, sexily slowing things down before the tempo pumps up again for Nut bush City Limits: expect no innovation here, just a guitarist, band and singer having a ball. Lucinda Williams’ Can’t Let You Go is reinvented as an R&B swinger, Joe’s guitar fencing with a Cajun accordion while Melody Gardot’s sultry If I Tell You! Love You becomes a yam ped-u p Adda ms Family theme tune played by rampant Gypsies. And so it goes on — the album dynamically seesaws until the surprising last number, a brave, downbeat rendition of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit. Hart’s a belter, but with considerable style and wit, easily capable of handling songs from the likes of Etta James (A Sunday Kind of Love). If it sounds if I’ve forgotten Bonamassa, don’t worry. He’s masterful throughout, with the class, intelligence and sheer blues virtuosity to let his co-star shine too. Great on their own, superb together.

- Michael Burland