These days, rock appears to be returning the favor. With most of its originators gone and its '60s-revivalist audience graying, blues relies more and more on rock energy for its sustenance. As was the case four decades ago, the torch is now carried primarily by youthful guitar hotshots. Standing in the place of Hendrix, Clapton, or Bloomfield are blokes like Joe Bonamassa, who cut their teeth on first-generation blues-rock and for whom this cross-breeding is second nature.
While the jaw-dropping chops of this upstate New York native are the main story -- he opened for B.B. King at the advanced age of 12 -- Bonamassa's radio-friendly vocals and songwriting skills make him as formidable a threat on a power ballad as on multiple blues choruses. Evidence is available on his most recent release, Had to Cry Today, on which his originals are joined by a diesel-powered workup of B.B.'s '70s hit "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" and a dark, urgent reading of the Lowell Fulsom classic "Reconsider Baby."