Topic: The next step for Joe...
I’ve been giving some thought about what the next stage is for Joe and his career and I thought I’d share my thoughts will you and hopefully Joe too if he is reads this. It is just my personal opinion and you are free to agree or disagree with it etc. My intention is not to offend or criticise. I write it with the future success of Joe in my thoughts.
It has been established without doubt that Joe is one of, if not the best, guitarist of his generation. He has also demonstrated that he has become a fine vocalist. Joe has established a great band together and has formed a very strong and positive relationship with his producer. Over the period of his career he has produced some very good (including several excellent) studio albums and finally has made the live album he had been looking to make and which forms an excellent product, representative of his career to date
Hopefully we all agree to everything I have said so far. What I believe Joe needs to do to take himself to the next stage is to prove himself as both a talented and prolific songwriter.
Of course Joe has written some great songs over his career so far. These include Dirt In My Pocket, Bridge To Better Days, Mountain Time, The River, Woke Up Dreaming, Tore Down, Asking Around for You, Around The Bend, Colour and Shape, Taking A Hit and Miss You Hate You. Joe’s song writing was particularly apparent on his first two albums, but since Blues Deluxe the number of songs Joe has written have dropped off. Three of the songs I listed are currently in the set list.
Sloe Gin is a great album in many ways, and was a very mature step for Joe, however there were only four songs on the album written by Joe. Of these one was a re-recorded version of Around the Bend, and India was an instrumental. My hope for the new album is that Joe can address this.
One of Joe’s great abilities without a doubt is his ability to record a great cover version. That was one of the features of his albums that initially drew me to Joe. It is pretty common for artists to record several cover versions on their early albums (as per the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin for example). However normally the number of cover versions reduce as the artist develops over the years. Look for example at artists of the same genre, ie Walter Trout, Albert Cummings, Sean Costello, Aynsley Lister. Their early albums featured several cover versions, but their later releases featured far fewer. My feeling though is that Joe, whom I rate as better than these other artists, should also now be at this stage.
Does it matter?
Well I think it does. If you look at any great music artist of the past you are generally able to name songs the artist wrote and recorded. I’m not sure if Joe yet has enough classic songs of his own for this to be the case. Commercially only Miss You Hate You is known. For Joe to take the next step and have the success we believe he deserves I think he does need more dynamic and original songs of his own.
The other benefit I can see of this is the possibility of a greater fan base. My biggest concern for Joe is that so many of his fans are male and of an older generation. You may think age does not matter, but it does. Is a 55 year old fan still going to be going to see Joe live in 10 years? How about 15 years? Cover versions of bands such as Jethro Tull, Ten Years After and Yes do nothing to reduce this age group. I think Joe should consider carefully whether he should record any further cover versions of artists from the 1960s and 1970s, unless the song is really spectacular. There are other places to hear these songs.
Ideally Joe should be looking for a fan base of approximately his own age, and I believe that strong original songs would be the best way to achieve this. Tracks like Bridge to Better Days have suggested that Joe could follow a blues-funk fusion direction should he wish, but there are many other avenues he could follow. John Mayer and the Black Keys play very different versions of blues rock from each other, and both have a younger fan base than Joe so there is a market out there.
I am not completely against Joe recording cover versions. I believe there will always be space on his albums for a classic blues cover version or two. I love the recording of songs such as So Many Roads and High Water Everywhere. I am as excited about Spike Driver Blues as anyone else on this forum The benefit of these songs is that they are generally unknown and therefore Joe has the opportunity to make these his own. However what I suggest is that rather than 3 new Joe originals on an album, there are around 3 cover versions.
Joe, I really hope you can address the balance and leave a legacy where you are remembered as both a fantastic musician and a great song writer. Does anyone agree?