Sometimes it feels as though the entire Blues scene has been watching Joanne Shaw Taylor grow from a young and shy girl into a woman with great power and presence. I remember seeing her playing a solo spot supporting Walter Trout at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire and blowing the audience away and a few years later seeing the almost finished article at the O2 in Islington and feeling gutted that I missed the performance that was released as her live show from the Borderline earlier this year.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this album; I guess that I was worried that she had peaked and that this might be the album that showed she had surrendered to her softer side.
No way - this is powerful and dark Blues with great playing and complete confidence but still with enough of that tender side to make you fall in love with her all over again.

Right from the off ‘Mud, Honey’ bristles with intent and then THAT voice, if anything smokier and more sexy than ever.
The song was originally an instrumental and in the spirit of Link Wray or Dick Dale it would have been a monster but the vocals take it somewhere darker and even more powerful – Jim Gaines production at its best here – and Ms Taylor seems justifiably proud of it: “I had the song title “Mud, Honey” for several years and intended to write an instrumental under that name. I originally wanted my second album “Diamonds in the Dirt” to be called “Mud, Honey.” When we went in to the new album with Jim Gaines, I took a demo of this in and told him it was going to be an instrumental, however, when I heard how it sounded with the band, it was so big and heavy it seemed a shame not to write some lyrics for it. I decided to go with a darker subject matter for the lyrics as I felt that’s what would do the heavy track justice. It’s a fictional song about a gangster style character who’s burned too many bridges.”

It sets the tone for the whole album. Her guitar playing is as fine as ever but these are songs that she has written and there are facets of her in every one. Her voice still has that characteristic cackle and five years of almost constant touring have developed her skills. She is famously quoted – about playing live – as saying “How can you not enjoy that job? I get on stage, turn my guitar up really loud and I shout in the microphone for two hours. It’s the best therapy in the world.” and that therapy is clear in every minute of this album as the maturity of her playing and writing demonstrates.

She can do the subtle stuff as well. ‘Fool In Love’ has the softer side of her vocal and some lovely organ carrying the song along while ‘Wrecking Ball’ has a remarkable funk to it and some superb stripped and basic playing to add punch and brio to a song about preparing to be hurt by love.

On the most raw and rocky number on the album, ‘Struck Down’, her vocal burns and the song hammers along – this will be a great live number methinks.

The title song may be the best story she has written into a song and anyone looking for that big guitar sound will not be dissatisfied.

It is a brilliant album. The lady is developing and her skills are evident but she will probably get even better and I’m already salivating over what she does next. In the meantime this is one to enjoy and get deep into.