Saturday, September 29, 2012

Album Review: “Almost Always Never” by Joan Shaw Taylor

Almost Always Never

Almost Always Never

  • Audio CD (September 11, 2012)  Number of Discs:Label: RUF RECORDS  ASIN: B008MEF5LA
  • In-Print Editions: MP3 Music

Fresh on the heels of  White Sugar (2009) and Diamonds in the Dirt (2010), for which she was voted “Best British Female Vocalist of the Year” in both 2010 and 2011 at the British Blues Awards. also garnering a nomination as “Best New Artist Debut” at the 2010 awards Joan Shaw Taylor has been knocking the dead in Europe and America.

It didn’t hurt her popularity when Annie Lennox  asked Taylor to play guitar for her at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace in London on June 4th. Dave Stewarts, of the Eurythmics’ first discovered her as a guitar prodigy while she was only 16 and asked her to join his “supergroup” of the time. Taylor has since relocated to just outside of Houston. Course she’s not home much with constant touring over the last few years, throughout this country, while still maintaining a very active presence in Europe, as evidenced by her critically-acclaimed UK tour in late 2011, which she’ll follow-up with a 13-date return trip to the UK in October.

“Blackest Day” Joan Shaw Taylor from the album “White Sugar”

Taylors voice has that husky blues quiver and her chops on the guitar are fantastic. She avoids the clichéd, theatrics that all too often are embraced by young blues guitarists, concentrating on virtuosic mastery of the instrument.  She recorded her first two albums with Grammy-winner Jim Gaines, and on this outing she’s journeyed further southwest and has hooked up with the acclaimed Mike McCarthy, who produced, recorded and mixed the new album in Austin, Texas. Backing Taylor on the new CD is a group of stellar musicians, each with their own impressive resumes: David Garza on keyboards/mandolin (Juliana Hatfield, Fiona Apple, Blues Traveler); Billy White on bass and acoustic slide (Heartless Bastards, Craig Finn, Dokken); and J.J. Johnson on drums (John Mayer Trio, Tedeschi/Trucks Band, Doyle Bramhall II).

The tunes run the gambit from soul, to blues ballads, to flat out rockin’ blues. While the songwriting is an obvious achievement (11 of the tunes are her original compositions), her guitar work is maturing at an astounding pace. Her dexterity, passion, skill and creativity in establishing the tune on rhythm, are a solid foundation for her soaring lead work. The pain and the joy, the soul and skill are some of the best in the new blues cannon. At times she reminds me of Buddy Guy at his most firey. Other times she can evoke Albert King, but throughout it is respect for instrument and the song that impresses most.

“Goin’ Home” Joan Shaw Taylor

One tune from the new album that really grabbed me was “Army Of One”, which is almost a blues march. The acoustic slide work is simply beautiful. The album show cases a number of styles and there is not a throw away on the album. One song of note is the only non original on the CD and that is “Jealousy” which was written by the late, great and underappreciated British singer Frankie Miller .

“I’ve made an album where I’m starting to hold my own on the guitar,” states Taylor. “I spent a lot of time leading up to these recordings going back and exploring old influences as well as embracing some new things,. I had the opportunity to write the songs I’ve always wanted to write, with an all-star cast to support and nurture them, but also to push me and this album to places I would not have been capable of reaching without them.”

Joanne Shaw Taylor will support Almost Always Never with a series of pre-release showcase dates in the U.S., before leaving for a UK tour and returning for more American shows in the fall. Check her website for tour dates and booking info, but whatever you do, don’t miss this album.


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Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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