Black Country Communion
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, USA|
Black Country Communion is an English-American hard rock band based in Los Angeles, California. Formed in 2009, the band is a supergroup composed of bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes, guitarist and vocalist Joe Bonamassa, drummer and backing vocalist Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Originally formed by Hughes and Bonamassa with the help of producer Kevin Shirley, the group released its self-titled debut album in September 2010. Second album Black Country Communion 2 followed in June 2011, which was promoted on a European tour later in the year. The band released its third album Afterglow in October 2012.
Following an impromptu performance together in Los Angeles, Hughes and Bonamassa started the side project in November 2009, recruiting Bonham and Sherinian on the advice of Shirley to finalise the lineup of the band. The name Black Country Communion is derived from the term Black Country, which refers to the West Midlands area of England where Hughes and Bonham grew up. The group's sound is intentionally reminiscent of popular classic rock groups of the 1970s, reflecting the previous work of frontman Hughes (in bands such as Trapeze and Deep Purple) as well as the link between Bonham and his father John's band Led Zeppelin.
In March 2013, after months of public tensions, Bonamassa announced that he was no longer a member of Black Country Communion, with the question over whether the group would continue with another guitarist unclear. Days later, Hughes confirmed that the band was officially over, hinting that he would continue working with Bonham and Sherinian under a new collective name. Sherinian later joined Bonamassa's touring band, while Hughes and Bonham formed California Breed with guitarist Andrew Watt. Hughes and Bonamassa later reconciled and the band reunited in 2016, with fourth album BCCIV released in September 2017.
Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa first met at the 2006 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, after which they jammed together at Hughes's studio in Hollywood with the idea to make music together in the future. Bonamassa also worked with Jason Bonham that year, when the drummer performed on the guitarist's fifth studio album You & Me on the recommendation of producer and mutual friend Kevin Shirley. Hughes and Bonamassa reunited three years later in November 2009, performing together at the House of Blues in Los Angeles for Guitar Center. It was at this point that the two decided to form a band. The idea of enlisting Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian to complete the band's lineup was suggested by Shirley, after a second guitarist was briefly considered instead of a keyboardist.
The completed quartet first performed together during the encore of a Bonamassa show in Riverside, California on March 17, 2010, playing "One Last Soul" and a cover version of the Deep Purple song "Mistreated". The name Black Country Communion was not finalised until May 2010, after the threat of legal action from another band prevented the group from using the name Black Country. Hughes later revealed that the band in question, from Baltimore, Maryland, reportedly demanded $500,000 for the right to use the name Black Country, a move which he quickly condemned as "just rude". The bassist later elaborated on the situation in a 2016 interview, explaining that his group had successfully bought the name Black Country from the Baltimore-based band (for less than the requested $500,000), although by the time the case was settled it was too late to use the name and they had to continue using the longer moniker Black Country Communion.
The band recorded its debut album at Shangri-La Studios in Los Angeles in early 2010, and scheduled its release through Mascot Records in Europe and J&R Adventures in North America for September. Speaking about the album, Hughes described it as "a big British rock statement", comparing the band's sound to that of his previous groups Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, as well as Led Zeppelin. "One Last Soul" was the first song to be released from the album, receiving its worldwide radio debut on Planet Rock (a radio station on which Bonamassa produced his own show) on August 2. The track was later released as a free digital download on the band's official website on August 10. Shortly before the release of the album, Planet Rock also broadcast an hour-long documentary featuring exclusive interviews with the band and a selection of tracks from the album.
Black Country Communion was officially released in Europe on September 20, and in North America a day later. On the night of its European release, the band played its first official show at the John Henry Rehearsal Studios in London in front of a limited crowd of "around 75-100 people". The performance was broadcast on Planet Rock that night, and again later on September 24. The album was a commercial success in the UK, reaching number 13 on the UK Albums Chart and topping the UK Rock Albums Chart, while in the US it peaked at number 54 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It also received mainly positive reviews from music critics, including four-star reviews from AllMusic reviewer Eduardo Rivadavia and Mojo writer Paul Elliott. The band did not tour in promotion of the album, playing just two shows in the UK at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall and London's Shepherd's Bush Empire. At the end of the year, Black Country Communion won the Planet Rock awards for Band of the Year and Best New Band, voted for by the station's listeners.
Talk of a second album began to circulate as early as October 2010, just a month after the release of Black Country Communion, when it was estimated by Bonham that the band would start recording again in January 2011. By December, Hughes had already written nine tracks for the album, which he explained would serve as a direct sequel to the first album. The album was scheduled for release in June, with the band set to embark on a promotional tour to coincide with its release. "The Outsider" was released as a free digital download on the band's website in May, followed by a music video for "Man in the Middle" in June. The album was released on June 13 in Europe and the following day in North America, selling over 8,000 copies in its first week in the US (compared to the 7,100 units of Black Country Communion) but only debuting on the Billboard 200 chart at number 71. The album was also less successful on the UK Albums Chart, peaking at number 23 (ten places lower than its predecessor).
In promotion of Black Country Communion 2, the band completed a short tour of Europe between June and July supported by the Michael Schenker Group. The group also performed in the US for the first time, playing a total of seven shows in six states between June 10 and 19.Live Over Europe, the band's first live video album, was released in October and screened in a select number of Vue Cinemas across the UK and Ireland in November. At the end of the year, the group won the Classic Rock award for Breakthrough Act of the Year.
The band returned to the studio in June 2012 to record the follow-up to Black Country Communion 2. Discussing the direction of the group's third album, Hughes explained that it serves as "a continuation of the first and second albums", while also containing "darker [material]" and "moments of drama". The first track released from the album was "Confessor", which was made available as a free download on the band's official website from September 19.Afterglow was released in October, reaching number 29 in the UK and number 48 in the US. Black Country Communion scheduled a one-off show at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on January 5, 2013, with a video release of the concert planned for later in the year. It was later announced, however, that the performance was cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances". Shirley offered an apology to fans the next day, suggesting that the show would be rescheduled.
Speaking in August 2012, Hughes doubted the future of the band by suggesting that Afterglow "just may be [the band's last album]", blaming the band's lack of touring (due in part to Joe Bonamassa's busy solo touring schedule) as a hindrance to the group's continued success. He later clarified his comments by stating that they "were fuelled from frustration and aimed at motivating other members of the group to commit to a proper touring schedule", and pointed out that if the band was unable to tour regularly then he would seek another band which could. Later, Bonamassa and Hughes both mentioned that they were "ready to move on", providing more evidence that the group's disbandment was imminent.
In an interview in October, Hughes quelled speculation the band was splitting up. Accepting responsibility for the initial spread of the rumours, he cited the speed at which the band had produced and released music as the cause for the stress on the group. On the possibility of the band touring together again, the frontman responded positively but warned that nothing was confirmed. Bonamassa, however, later revealed his anger at Hughes, condemning his "bullying" of the guitarist to complete the planned 2013 show despite knowing he was not able to, as well as the way in which he publicly revealed the tensions in the band and his claim of being the sole songwriter on Afterglow. Bonham also revealed his frustration with the situation, while manager Roy Weisman admitted that it was his decision to cancel the Wolverhampton gig, based on Hughes's actions. Bonamassa sought to end the situation positively, praising Hughes as a musician and proposing that the band would continue to make music for the foreseeable future, although Bonham proposed that the band might tour with a different guitarist.
On March 13, 2013, Bonamassa announced that he was "happily not involved any more" with Black Country Communion. Ten days later, Hughes confirmed that the band was over, revealing that Bonamassa would not allow the remaining members to continue with the Black Country Communion name. Speaking about the future, he hinted that "Jason, Derek and I will continue with a different name when the time is right". In August 2013, Sherinian joined Bonamassa's solo band as a full-time member, and in February 2014, Hughes and Bonham unveiled a new band with guitarist Andrew Watt named California Breed. Since the breakup of Black Country Communion, Hughes has revealed that he initially left the band on September 21, 2012 as he was aware there was "no hope of touring", claiming that a number of guitarists including Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani were contacted about joining the band, while stressing that his relationship with Bonamassa is "fine".
In April 2016, it was announced that Black Country Communion would be reuniting in 2017 to record a fourth album. Speaking about the supergroup's comeback, Bonham explained that the reunion was initially suggested by Bonamassa, who reached out to the other band members with the proposal. Hughes and Bonamassa started writing new music for the forthcoming album in September, with recording beginning the following January. The album, entitled BCCIV, was released on September 22, 2017, and will be promoted at two UK shows in January 2018.
As a supergroup, Black Country Communion's style is often described as a mix of various different sounds and influences. Particular significance is attributed to the band's mix of blues rock (attributed primarily to Bonamassa's work within the genre) and hard rock (originating from Hughes's previous work with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath and from Bonham's tie with Led Zeppelin via his father John), with some critics going as far as to claim that the group's sound is based on "the vintage Deep Purple template". In reviews for the band's second album, a number of critics compared the sound of the group to that of Led Zeppelin - Eduardo Rivadavia of website AllMusic noted that the album "sounds like the baby of drummer Jason Bonham", while Paul Cole of the Sunday Mercury claimed that it is "haunted by the spirit of Zeppelin". Hughes has dubbed the group "a rock and roll band in the true sense of the word".
Traditionally, the writing processes for Black Country Communion's albums have been led by Hughes, who wrote the majority of the lyrics for both Black Country Communion and Black Country Communion 2. The majority of the music on Black Country Communion was composed by Hughes and Bonamassa, with Shirley increasing his composition presence for the second album. Noting the extensive touring commitments of Bonamassa, Hughes has claimed that he was "left as the keeper of the keys to write [the band's] albums", noting that for each record - which have been continuations of their predecessors - he has had more and more time to write material (six weeks for Black Country Communion, four months for Black Country Communion 2, six months for Afterglow). Bonham has described the band's writing style as "spur of the moment".