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Joanne Shaw Taylor - Almost Always Never

Ruf Records

12 Tracks 62:32

On June 4, 2012, Annie Lennox, performed her song “There Must Be An Angel” in front of Buckingham Palace for the British Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee concert. At three minutes in, as the huge orchestra begins rocking out, Lennox turned to the band for a lead guitar solo and millions of people all over the world saw a blonde vision in a white suit with angel wings step forward and deliver a stunning solo on a Les Paul.

Many people watching probably said, (using the title of another of Lennox’s songs )“Who’s That Girl”? Some of us already knew. It was British guitar sensation Joanne Shaw Taylor.  ( See the video here -

Joanne is still in her mid-twenties and has hundreds of live performances behind her. In 2010, she won the Female Vocalist award in the British Blues Awards (BBA). Her previous albums were 2009’s White Sugar, (nominated for Best Debut in the 2009 Blues Blast Music Awards) and 2010’s Diamonds In The Dirt both of which peaked at number 8 in the US Billboard Top Blues Albums chart. In the 2011 British Blues Awards, Taylor won both the Female Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year, the latter for her track "Same As It Never Was" from her album, Diamonds In The Dirt. She is a nominee for Female Vocalist in the 2012 BBAs.

They say that the third album is the most difficult to do. It has to be a balancing act between maintaining a trajectory and the dangers inherent in repeating the sounds and styles of the first two. Well, no problem here.

Joanne wisely chose to make the album in Austin, TX, under the supervision and direction of producer Mike McCarthy (Patty Griffin, Spoon) and with David Garza (keyboards), Billy White (bass/slide guitar) and J.J. Johnson (drums). Although as usual Joanne’s song writing skills are to the fore, she seems to be plowing a new furrow.

The songs are often filed with angst and hints at failed relationships (You Should Stay, I Should Go) and with a general theme of broken hearts. The whole is leavened with some outstanding guitar work from the thrashing “Soul Station” to the beautiful, and thoughtful work on “Army Of One” to say nothing of the beautiful solo on “Jealousy” – one of the very best! (Joanne told me in a recent interview that the songs are not autobiographical, they are merely what came out when she sat down to write.)

As always this CD is a showcase of Joanne's immense skill as a blues rock guitar player but her songwriting is poetic and articulate and presages a new age by an artist simply head and shoulders above the rest. Her voice has a timbre and a maturity that belies her years and as a lyricist she is “almost always never” to be beaten. Outstanding. Get it today. 

Reviewer Ian McKenzie is English and is the editor of Blues In The South, [] a monthly blues information publication. He is the producer/ host of two blues radio shows Blues Before Midnight on KCOR (Kansas City Online Radio: Fridays; and Wednesday's Even Worse on Phonic FM ( alternate Wednesdays.

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