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…..no
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