Throughout her twelve-year recording career, the infectious Blues tones of Joanne Shaw Taylor have never disappointed. When her debut album White Sugar was unleashed in 2009, a fairly male-dominated Blues scene was knocked out of its comfort zone and given something serious to think about.
Joanne Shaw Taylor – The Blues Album (KTBA Records)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Brian Boyle
Discovered by Eurythmics legend Dave Stewart at the tender age of 16, the Black Country native’s reputation has soared with each release, so much so she can afford to haul in the likes of Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith to co-produce the album.
The Blues Album is a collection of covers and tips its hat to some influential heavyweights like Peter Green, Albert King, Little Richard and Aretha Franklin, and lesser spotted tracks from The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Ry Cooder’s Little Village. While previous Taylor albums drifted more to the Blues Rock arena, this latest ensemble is a more traditional affair.
“I’d known from the beginning of my recording career that one day I wanted to record an album of blues covers,” Joanne says. “I just wasn’t sure when the right time to do that would be. I’ve always found it far easier to write my own material than come up with creative ways to make other artists’ material my own.”
A dominant take of Peter Green’s Stop Messin’ Round breaks the seal and gives off a feeling of both redemption and revelry, with Taylor practically remoulding the track.
The broad-shouldered stomp of Little Milton’s If That Ain’t A Reason allows her persuasive voice to really flex its muscles with a punchy R&B injection. Aretha Franklin wouldn’t be an artist you’d see covered on a lot of Blues albums, but this ballsy decision in taking on If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody and in turn going toe to toe with the original was inspired.
It’s fair to say co-producer Joe Bonamassa was never going to stay seated behind the glass and not get in on the action. With Taylor having the pick of some of the Bluesman’s amps and Telecasters, the New Yorker got to scratch the itch on the Little Village tune Don’t Go Away Mad, where the pair cross frets and trade vocals like they’ve been doing it together years. Infectious chemistry at its very best.
“I mostly played my own guitar, my 1966 Esquire Junior,” says Joanne. “I tried to use a few of Joe’s Tele’s, but they’re set up for much bigger hands than mine. I did use Joe’s vintage amps – I believe one of his ’60s Vibroverbs mixed with a fumble overdrive for pretty much all of it. We didn’t use any pedals.”
Released 15 years before Taylor made her debut appearance on planet earth, Albert King’s Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me is performed with such respect and affection, it at times feels like a genuine changing of the Blues guard is taking place.
American Blues and Gospel artist Mike Farris weighs in on a stirring stab of Little Richard’s I Don’t Know What You’ve Got, another prime example of how to keep the heart of classic music beating strong.
Closer Three Time Loser tees up a feel-good finale with a prime slice of honky-tonk which also reminds us of the depth of styles within the Blues genre.
There’s not much more that can be written about Taylor’s impeccable guitar work, except that it’s as engrossing and jaw-dropping as ever.
But what Bonamassa and Smith have brought to the forefront is the endless tide of passion and sincerity in her vocals. I suspect this won’t be the last time Taylor will reboot herself and put her own stamp on another batch of covers, for this has been an education in the Blues.
The Blues Album is available from KTBA Records.
STOP MESSIN’ ROUND (3:38)
IF THAT AIN’T A REASON (4:00)
KEEP ON LOVIN’ ME (4:07)
IF YOU GOTTA MAKE A FOOL OF SOMEBODY (4:10)
DON’T GO AWAY MAD feat. Joe Bonamassa (2:49)
SCRAPS VIGNETTE (1:27)
CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO ME (4:25)
LET ME DOWN EASY (4:50)
TWO TIME MY LOVIN’ (4:34)
I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE GOT feat. Mike Farris (4:49)
THREE TIME LOSER (4.52)