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What the critics are saying about "Hit It Hard"

Living Blues Magazine (December 2015)
Georgie "The Blacksmith" Bonds has a right to sing the blues. Ever since Sonny Rhodes heard him sing Stormy Monday at Philadelphia's Barbary club in the early '90s, the self-proclaimed " Disciple of the Blues" served as his mentor. Bonds, a then-unknown Philadelphia black urban cowboy and blacksmith, dedicated his life to becoming a performing artist. After countless jam sessions during "open mic night" at Warmdaddy's (Philadelphia's most popular blues and soul food hotspot) the lessons Bonds learned from Rhodes have clearly paid off on his third album, Hit It Hard.

The 11 original compositions serve as a showcase for Bonds' myriad musical palette-he comfortably embraces an array of influences that permeate his own version of the blues hard-knock life. There's a little bit of a lot of things to like, from hard and straight shuffles (Butter Your Biscuit) to gritty New Orleans-flavored groove on Let's Get Down that feature lyrics and vocals reminiscent of the storytelling gifts of Robert Cray.

There's no shortage of warm harmonica riffs, hot guitar solos and cold-blooded song verses (on Deadly Poison) where Bonds warns about a wife's revenge on an abusive husband ("holding on to hate is the Devils favorite lie"). Bonds even makes it personal when sharing his insider knowledge regarding the woeful life of inmates doing time on both Paid Vacation and Another Year. Indeed, he knows of which he speaks-the latter tune was his very first original composition, and he wrote it while doing a two-year stint in prison.

But that life, thankfully, is behind him now. Since his two previous albums, Sometimes I Wonder and 2013's Stepping Into Time, Bonds has surrounded himself with a first-rate support group of producer/musicians in Buddy Cleveland and Neil Taylor (to whom Bonds appears to have relinquished the guitar chair, at least for this outing). Their tag-team efforts are clearly aimed at keeping him off the troubled tracks and on the blues radar screen, as the former blacksmith from Germantown appears to be using his horseshoe as a lucky charm.

- Wayne Goins (Living Blues)

Washington Blues Society (December 2015)
Hit It Hard is more than just title of the new album by Pennsylvania Blues hall of Fame vocalist Georgie "The Blacksmith" Bonds - it is a way of life. Born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Bonds became a prominent figure in Philadelphia's storied Black Cowboys organization where he learned to shoe horses and became a real life blacksmith. Bonds traded his heavy hammer for a guitar and rose to be a pinnacle of the City of Brotherly Love's blues community. Bonds delivers high intensity performances that hit you hard in the heart with soul-stirring emotion. His third album is another hard won victory, released in October of2015 after Georgie spent the first half of the year recovering from multiple hip surgeries. The 11 tracks feature his good friends, music and song writing partners guitarist Neil Taylor and harmonica man Buddy Cleveland. Opening track, the funkified "Pickin ' Your Bones." is a tribute to Georgie's mentor; the great Sonny Rhodes, who guided him as a fledgling blues singer. From there Bonds and his crew deliver driving real blues tracks that cover the emotional spectrum from a Saturday night house party to a morning after hangover. Saxophonists Vanessa Collier and Dave Renz spar during "Let's Get Down." Cleveland certainly should be considered for several songwriting awards for penning the new classic "Sentenced to the Blues." Bonds digs deep into the covers of Sam Taylor's "Not Tired of Living," and the Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues "The Soul Of A Man," making them his own sworn testimony. Bonds offers sage advice to "Butter your biscuit if you want that dough," and to never drink the "deadly poison" of hate. The final track, "Another Year," laments the prospect of spending another year in jail, and this was the first song Bonds wrote as a young man during a two-year stint in a federal prison. Hit It Hard has many poignant reflections on the harsh realities of life and shows that these difficult experiences can often result in high art and exquisite beauty.

- Rick J Bowen

Elmore Magazine (November 2015)
Long live the indomitable spirit of blues vocalist Georgie Bonds! I've listened to him describe the incredible series of hardships in his life first-hand, while maintaining a very upbeat, gracious attitude about it. That was a few years ago, and since then Georgie has had multiple hip surgeries, but again, bounced back. As I listen to his music, I think of his infectious smile and sheer love of singing. The former blacksmith is again hosting the Tuesday night blues jam at Philly's long-running blues club Warmdaddys, and with the help of songwriting partners, guitarist Neil Taylor and harpist Buddy Cleveland, Georgie delivers his third album. For the most part he is supported by his five piece band, but local sax favorites Vanessa Collier and Dave Renz join the proceedings on several tracks, mostly notably in dueling fashion on "Let's Get Down."

It's impossible to capture Bonds' turbulent journey in one album, but he does represent some of it on these tracks. "Pickin' Your Bones" is a tribute to his mentor Sonny Rhodes, who helped a scuffling Georgie get started. "Deadly Poison" refers to his near fatal reaction to prescription medicine after suffering from severe burns. The final track, "Another Year," has the protagonist facing another foreboding year in jail. This is the first song he ever wrote, done during his own two year stint in Federal prison. Today Georgie is a beacon of optimism, and one who can always count on support from his ever growing community of friends. He sings straight from the heart and soul. Feel it, and count your own blessings.

- Jim Hynes (Elmore Magazine)

Bman's Blues Report (December 2015)
I just received the newest release, Hit It Hard, from Georgie Bonds and it's a mover! Opening with Pickin' Your Bones,the band is hitting it hard with Buddy Cleveland on harp, Andy Haley on drums, Walter Runge on organ and Neil Taylor on guitar, Bond is leading the way on lead vocal. Great opener. Funky, Let's Get Down, has a great groove with Runge on piano backing Bonds' lead vocal and Vanessa Collier and Dave Renz trading sax solos. Corey Paternoster and Haley jazz it up a bit with some jazzy rhythms as well. Sentenced To The Blues is a solid down the middle slow blues and has the best of Bonds' vocals. Runge's organ work creates tension in the track, Cleveland lays out a really nice harp solo and Taylor hits a stiff guitar solo of his own. Very nice! Shuffle track, Not Tired Of Living, has an almost Elvin Bishop strut. Bonds has a cool swing and Taylor's guitar work, coupled with Cleveland's harp highlights leads to a full group chorus by Cleveland, Collier, Gina Burnett and Mike Bardzik. Come Back Baby is a blues fused rocker with a great bass line from Prince. Bonds vocals are inspired and Cleveland trades harp riffs with Runge on piano for a cool track. Ballad, The Soul Of A Man, is a really nice composition with Bonds' solid vocal work trimmed by Cleveland on harp. The use of Wurlitzer by Runge on this track was a nice choice accenting the feel of the track. Taylor plays a nicely articulated solo of his own giving the track a blusier feel. Very nice. Butter Your Biscuit and a cool shuffle with Bonds' vocal just off the beat. I really like when someone does this well and Bonds hits it perfectly. Taylor steps up with some of his coolest riffs on the release and Cleveland lays it out flat, backed by Runge on keys making this one of my favorite tracks on the release. Deadly Poison has a cool back beat and nice bass lines by Prince. Again, Runge chooses Wurlitzer for the perfect effect and Bonds, working with Collier and Matecki get the vocals spot on. Lumbering blues, Paid Vacation, sets a nice pace and solid bass lines by Prince and the freewheelin' vocals by Bonds really opens the door. Harp work by Cleveland and guitar work by Taylor makes this a super track. R&B track, Blues Job, is quick paced and reinforced by the sax work of Renz and Collier. Taylor steps up with some nice fluid guitar riffs on this track and ultra sassy sax lines make this another of my favorites on the release. Wrapping the release is Another Year, a quiet ballad featuring soft blending of Taylor's guitar work, Bonds vocals and Cleveland's harp. This is a nice conclusion to a cool release.

- Bman's Blues Report

Blues Bytes (December 2015)
So far, Georgie Bonds' life itself stands as a pretty vivid picture of the blues. Serving time in jail as a youth, he became a blacksmith upon release and straightened his life out. He eventually started performing as a singer in the 90's, after being inspired by a Robert Johnson cassette someone loaned him, but soon began battling a series of health issues (including a series of hip surgeries earlier this year), but has persevered through it all, recently releasing his third CD, Hit It Hard (Roadhouse Redemption Records).

I don't remember noticing this when reviewing Bonds' last CD (Stepping Into Time), but the singer's vocals are reminiscent of Robert Cray at times, the right amount of silk and grit. The setting of most of the songs is a bit more rustic than Cray's usual fare, however, since many of the tracks feature Buddy Cleveland's harmonica. Despite the similarities in vocal style, Bonds is very much his own man as a singer.

The opening track is "Pickin' Your Bones," written and previously recorded by Sonny Rhodes, and serves as a tribute to Bonds' musical mentor. "Let's Get Down" is a nice slice of New Orleans-styled funk, while "Sentenced To The Blues" is a fine original slow burner penned by Cleveland with a heartfelt performance from Bonds and strong work from Cleveland on harmonica and guitarist Neil Taylor. Cleveland also wrote the smooth shuffle "Butter Your Biscuit," and Taylor wrote the revenge tune "Deadly Poison."

Bonds contributes a few songs of his own, the highlights being a pair of tunes about time in prison ("Paid Vacation" and "Another Year," which was the first song he wrote while in prison). He also covers tunes from Sam Taylor ("Tired of Being Alone") and Blind Willie Johnson. The Johnson cover is "The Soul Of A Man," which comes off like a deep soul classic in Bonds' hands.

Providing superlative backing on the disc, in addition to Cleveland (harmonica/backing vocals) and Taylor (guitar/backing vocals) are Andy Haley (drums), Rick Prince (bass), Walter Runge (keys), Dave Renz (tenor sax), Vanessa Collier (sax/backing vocals), Corey Paternoster (percussion), Mike Bardzik (percussion), Paul Matecki (vocals), and Gina Burnett (vocals).

If there's any justice in the world, Hit It Hard will be a big success for Georgie Bonds. All the ingredients are in place…..a great set of diverse tunes and outstanding vocal and instrumental performances, so hopefully, this underrated singer will be able to kick his recent health issues and capitalize on this excellent release.

- Blues Bytes

Reflections In Blue (October 2015)
Georgie Bonds has seen his share of hard times and managed to pull through and become a "better man" in the process...tackled his demons and built a life for himself that he can, and should be proud of. He has worked as a blacksmith and, now, due to circumstances beyond his control, he is playing blues...something he does with all the fervor that he approached his blacksmith work with. A no-nonsense kind of guy, he puts 100% into everything he does. With the aid of musical friends Neil Taylor and Buddy Cleveland from the Philadelphia area's "Pork Roll Project" on guitar and harmonica, Andy Haley on drums, Rick Prince on bass, Walter Runge on organ and more, he manages to pull off a set of contemporary blues that is upbeat and danceable, a factor that makes the band popular in clubs wherever they chose to hang their hats. He has also called in a number of background vocalists and friends Vanessa Collier and Dave Renz to give an assist on sax. The result is a blend of blues, soul, rock and pop that makes this a top-notch bar band. I found the band reminiscent of "Traffic", particularly on their cover of Blind Willie Johnson's "The Soul Of A Man." This band is tight and Bonds delivers the blues with power and authority. While I prefer my blues in a more traditional style, I have to acknowledge the talent of the band and the passion with which Georgie delivers his vocals. This is a performer who has tremendous potential and the drive to do whatever he wants. He has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Blues Hall of Fame as well as the America's Music Festival Series Hall of Fame in Media, Pa...and he is just getting started. This is someone to keep an eye on. Soar like an eagle or fall flat on his face, Georgie Bonds is in it for the long haul...nothing gets done half-way.

- Bill Wilson (Reflections In Blue)


Georgie Bonds