Brother Danielson

And Woven Hand

Perhaps the only thing stranger looking than the big, papier-mache "nine-fruit tree" within which Brother Danielson usually performs was the outfit he was sporting for his solo gig Thursday night at Iota: short-sleeve white dress shirt, hideous plaid shorts and brown socks, nearly knee high. The leader of the group that performs as the Danielson Famile looked like he was headed to a John Ashcroft singalong. Only the Brother (real name Daniel Smith) has a take on patriotic matters so personal and nonlinear that once he started singing, the former attorney general would probably chase him into the woods with a stick.

Brother wore a set of homemade heart-shaped blinders for most of his 45-minute set, appropriate to his solo compositions' unswerving spiritual focus. With just an acoustic guitar and his whisper-to-a-squeal voice to support them, songs such as "Daughters Will Tune You" and "Our Givest" were almost too nakedly personal, missing the untamed sprawl of his backing Famile. Still, when the Brother's struggles were matched to a ready-to-explode guitar riff -- as in "Physician Heal Yourself" -- it was as palpable a statement of faith as can be imagined.

If Brother Danielson's take on Christian music starts with '60s folk and gets weird from there, Woven Hand, which shared the bill Thursday, creeps toward Heaven from under the old-time-music floorboards. A side project of 16 Horsepower's David Edwards (joined by drummer Ordy Garrison), the duo drove into the heart of darkness, where God and madness meet. Edwards's slashing guitar and truly harrowing voice were electrifying, turning such songs as "Sparrow Falls" and "Chest of Drawers" into a merging of Blind Willie Johnson and the Carter Family.

-- Patrick Foster

Joe Bonamassa

Most guitarists who perform at Blues Alley arrive with their instrument and a few sets of strings. Not Joe Bonamassa.

The blues phenom showed up Thursday night with a dozen axes and enough amp wattage to shake loose every brick in the building. Which, of course, is precisely what the capacity crowd turned out to hear: a flat-out power-trio romp -- think Cream meets ZZ Top meets a subset of the Allman Brothers -- in an unusually cozy setting.

Bonamassa lives up to his guitar-god status with relish and flamboyance. Often standing on a makeshift riser, like some Stratocaster-toting superhero, he saluted his blues elders with blazing technique and howled like someone who had no intention of using his voice the following day. When he tipped his hat to B.B. King, his mentor and frequent tour mate, Bonamassa gleefully jammed more notes into a few choruses of "You Upset Me Baby" than King typically plays all night.

As a performer, Bonamassa has more in common with Buddy Guy. He has a wide array of traditional and contemporary influences and favors a similar brand of over-the-top showmanship. During the opening set, which featured everything from blues staples to an arena-ripe version of Yes's "Starship Trooper," there were echoes of Guy's abrupt dynamic shifts, Eric Clapton's elastic bends, Danny Gatton's hillbilly jazz, Duane Allman's slide work and Billy Gibbons's refried boogie.

All the while, bassist Eric Czar and drummer Kenny Kramme held up their end of the bargain, generating jackhammer propulsion and engaging Bonamassa in some flashy, thoroughly crowd-pleasing exchanges.

-- Mike Joyce