Bluesman Josh Smith to play 3 Big Island shows

  • courtesy photo

Blues guitar virtuoso Josh Smith is hitting the Big Island on a debut Hawaii tour with his power trio to play Gertrude’s Jazz Bar in Kailua-Kona on Friday night and Hilo Town Tavern on Saturday night.

Smith released his debut album “Born Under a Blue Sign” at 14 — which gave him prodigy status — and has been playing professionally for more than two decades.


While he hasn’t become a household name, he’s been a longtime Los Angeles session guitarist, earning a reputation as a musician’s musician. He’s also bandleader for R&B artist and producer Raphael Saadiq, formerly of the multi-platinum group Tony! Toni! Toné!, and former band leader for “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks.

“I’m really excited and grateful to be on the road and see where the music takes me,” Smith said. “For years, I’ve supported my family playing sessions, playing other people’s music. But in doing so, I put my dream of being an artist and playing my own music on hold for quite some time.”

Smith’s friend, blues great Joe Bonamassa, said about the 38-year-old Florida native, “He is so damn good and we are so lucky to have him.”

Added blues icon Coco Montoya, “Plain and simple, there’s no one better.”

Smith is touring in support of his eighth album, “Over Your Head,” which features Bonamassa as a guest artist, as well as bluesmen Kirk Fletcher and Charlie Musselwhite.

On the title track, Bonamassa and Smith trade licks. On “And What,” Fletcher seamlessly jams with Smith, no lyrics required. And Musselwhite’s famous harmonica adds another color to the riff-driven “You’ll Find Love.”

Smith is known for a soulful, powerful, gritty voice that conveys an existential longing, as well as mind-boggling guitar skills. And like the late, great blues idols Muddy Waters, Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton, Smith’s guitar of choice is the Fender Telecaster.

Smith’s version of the iconic guitar is a Bill Chapin custom version known as the T-Bird.

“I want every nuance of picking to come through, and no guitar does that like a Telecaster,” Smith said. “The black and white Tele I’ve been playing for the past nine years is the only guitar I have that I can use on any gig and will do everything I need it to do.”

Two shows are scheduled Friday at Gertrude’s, at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. and dinner reservations are recommended.

Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Hilo Town Tavern, with the show at 9 p.m.


Advance tickets for both venues are $35, available at Hilo Town Tavern, Hilo Ukuleles & Guitars, Hilo Music Exchange, Keaau Natural Foods, Top Stitch in Honokaa, Waimea General Store in Parker Square, Gertrude’s Jazz Bar, Kona Music Exchange in Kailua-Kona, Kiernan Music in Kainaliu, by calling 896-4845 and online at bluesbearhawaii.com.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.