Joanne Shaw Taylor: ‘The New Face Of The Blues’
Joanne Shaw Taylor first came onto my radar a couple of months ago. I was actually chatting with a reader of The Happy Bluesman (Paul, if you’re reading this, then thank you very much!) who recommended that I take a listen. Taylor has since gone on to become a regular on my blues playlists.
In short, this is because Joanne Shaw Taylor has it all. She is an amazing singer, a brilliant guitarist and a great song writer. To possess more than one of these skills is a rarity – even amongst professional blues musicians. To have all three of these assets is really very special. And it is the combination of these talents – in addition to Taylor’s diligence – that account for her success.
This success has not come overnight. The blues is a genre that is largely dominated by American men and historically its subject matter has subjugated, rather than empowered women. This makes Joanne Shaw Taylor’s success all the more impressive. Taylor has taken the themes of blues and subverted them, telling them from a female perspective. In doing so, she is empowering women and inspiring the next generation of female blues musicians.
Joanne Shaw Taylor – The Top Songs
Over the course of her career, Joanne Shaw Taylor has released 5 albums. Her most recent albums – Wild and Dirty Truth – are my favourite. You can tell that Taylor has honed her craft over the years, and the quality of her guitar playing and song writing reflect this. It makes me excited for the release of her new album Reckless Heart in just a few weeks, on 15th March.
The songs that I’ve heard from the album so far (a number of which have already been released on Spotify) are brilliant. In addition to those songs – some of which are noted below – my favourite Joanne Shaw Taylor songs across all of her albums to date are as follows:
Of the new songs that have so far been released from Taylor’s new album Reckless Heart, this is my favourite. It highlights the strength of her vocals and the whole song is just so well constructed. I also think that the solos are some of the best on any of Taylor’s albums. Both solos illustrate her ability to play with passion and energy, whilst maintaining control. Her vibrato is fast and furious, yet the placement of her notes are totally precise.
For the album Wild, Joanne Shaw Taylor paired up with renowned music producer Kevin Shirley – who had previously worked with Iron Maiden, Aerosmith and Joe Bonamassa, amongst others. . Under Shirley’s direction, Taylor included a cover of George Gershwin’s Summertime. Taylor’s vocals are beautiful and the song features two of her best constructed and most tasteful guitar solos. Both of them illustrate how important it is to properly pace your solos and adjust your dynamics for maximum emotional impact.
This was the first song that I heard by Joanne Shaw Taylor, and it was the perfect introduction. The song is characteristic of Taylor’s style; illustrating her gritty vocals and tasteful soloing style, which is precise and controlled yet full of feeling. It also features one of my favourite riffs on the album – which runs throughout the entire song, giving it a strong rhythmic feel.
One of Joanne Shaw Taylor’s greatest skills is her ability to write memorable and catchy blues songs. No Reason to Stay is a perfect example of this. It is a lighter and more ‘poppy’ composition, but one that has its foundations in the blues. The song features some great rhythm playing from Taylor, as well as beautiful vocal harmonies and an impressive and well paced guitar solo.
This song deserves a mention for the intro solo alone. The construction of that solo is brilliant. Joanne Shaw Taylor picks just handful of notes but plays them with perfect timing and beautiful technique. In doing so, she illustrates that you need nothing more than a handful of notes to sound amazing. The song then goes on to feature two further beautiful guitar solos, both of which showcase the breath of Taylor’s skills as a guitarist.
This is my favourite song from the album The Dirty Truth. Just listen to the quality of Taylor’s rhythm playing. It is so delicate and serves the song perfectly. This is contrasted beautifully with the licks that Taylor throws in between her vocal lines in the second half of the song. The outro solo is almost an extended jam and builds the song to a brilliant crescendo.
First written for the 1957 film of the same name, Wild Is The Wind is a song that has been covered countless times, including by Nina Simone and David Bowie, amongst others. Taylor’s cover is similar in form and structure to Bowie’s version, but the raw and emotional vocals are closer to those of Nina Simone’s version. Having said that, Taylor puts her own twist on the song with her exceptional guitar playing. She uses this to build momentum through the song, bringing it to a powerful conclusion with the final lengthy guitar solo.
If you want to listen further and find out more about Joanne Shaw Taylor, then check out the links below:
Who are your favourite modern blues guitarists and bands? Let me know in the comments!