Blues Bytes


June 2009

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Joanne Shaw Taylor
White Sugar
Ruf Records

Joanne Shaw Taylor

British singer/guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor was 16 years old when she was discovered by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics. Stewart was so impressed with Taylor’s guitar playing (“it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end”) that he invited the youngster to join his supergroup, D.U.P. (Da Univerzal Playaz), on a European tour in 2002. Taylor fell hard for the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, and Jimi Hendrix as a young schoolgirl and decided to follow in their considerable footsteps. Listening to her breathtaking debut album, White Sugar (Ruf Records), it’s safe to say that she’s well on the way to succeeding.

For her debut, the 23-year-old Taylor traveled to Tennessee and enlisted legendary producer Jim Gaines (Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Luther Allison, Jonny Lang) and a pair of powerhouse Memphis session players (Steve Potts on drums, Dave Smith on bass). The disc features nine original compositions by Taylor (plus a raucous cover of The Hoax’s “Bones”), highly unusual for a debut recording, but these songs and performances show that she is fully in command of her talents.

The songs are a highly original and varied set… sound-alike knock-off tunes to be found. Standouts include the opening track, “Going Home,” “Time Has Come,” the torrid instrumental title track, the mid-tempo “Heavy Heart,” and “Blackest Day,” which is an eight minutes-plus blues guitar seminar.

Taylor’s guitar work is front and center with loads of attitude and flash, but at the same time there’s no unnecessary and tedious pyrotechnics either. Best of all, it’s not the same riff over and over again. She plays with tons of versatility and imagination. There’s plenty of blues guitar with just the right mix of rock influences. Everything fits perfectly. Vocally, she has a strong, husky style, sort of understated, and somewhat reminiscent of Joss Stone with its soulfulness at times.

This is an absolutely stunning release. Rarely, if ever, do you get a debut recording that is as fully realized as this one. Blues fans are advised to stay tuned for much more outstanding music in the future from Joanne Shaw Taylor.

--- Graham Clarke


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