24 September 2021 (released)
08 October 2021
I have never had any issue with Joanne Shaw Taylor’s guitar playing – au contraire, I would say she is the best British Blues guitarist – male or female – around today.
On the other hand, her vocals, smoky and husky equally, are often really badly recorded. The team of Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith appear to have found the magic trick of keeping the smokiness and sheer sexuality of her vocals but also recording them in such a way that I could understand every word – hallelujah!
As for the album, she has recorded versions of 11 Blues and soul classics – every one on the rare spectrum – from artists such as Albert King, Peter Green, Little Richard, Magic Sam, Aretha Franklin, Little Milton, and many more.
There isn’t a duffer among them and between her stunning vocals and superb guitar, all backed up by Josh Smith (guitar), Reese Wynans (keyboards), Greg Morrow (drums), Steve Mackey (bass), Steve Patrick (trumpet), Mark Douthit (sax), Barry Green (trombone), it’s an album of real joys.
The whole project originated from JST taking the idea to Bonamassa as he had been acting as a mentor to her for some years: “I mentioned my new project idea to Joe Bonamassa,” recalls Joanne. “He asked me for my song choices. Immediately he began sending me notes and was texting me song suggestions.” Joanne and Joe have been best friends and fans of each other’s music for many years. Joanne always wanted to work with Joe if the right project or collaboration came about.
“He was already acting as a mentor as well as an unofficial producer on The Blues Album, so I asked him if he’d fancy the job, officially,” says Joanne. “Thankfully, he accepted. The Blues Album has been everything I hoped it would be. It’s been a labour of love, overseen by an artist, producer, and friend who I trust beyond measure.”
The album opens with the B-side of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Need Your Love So Bad’, ‘Stop Messin’ Round’ and it leaps out of the speakers with a real punch and snap, Taylor’s guitar is fast, aggressive and fluid while her vocals really carry the song.
It follows on with Little Milton’s ‘If That Ain’t A Reason’, really strong R&B and her voice is suited perfectly to it. I’ve heard the original and she almost turns it on its head, accusing and sassy. Play both and it’s difficult to pick a favourite.
From there onwards every track seems to show another side of Taylor’s music and takes her in directions I’ve never heard from her before: “We wanted to make a tough vocal centric straight blues record that showcases Joanne’s amazing talent but in a slightly different light," explains Bonamassa. “Joanne is a dear friend and a superstar. Josh and I focused on testing her limits and pushing boundaries that might not have occurred before. It's all about making a statement and having the listener want to play the music repeatedly."
Joanne Shaw Taylor is one of Britain’s brightest Blues talents and this album seems to have picked out aspects of her abilities that had previously been unheard, especially her ability to carry a classic soul song.
Without question, one of the best Blues albums I’ve heard this year.