Album of the Week 46-2013: Joanne Shaw Taylor – Almost Always Never

Many Blues guitarists – if not almost all of them – can improvise a great guitar solo. Much less of them are actually good songwriters. Enter Joanne Shaw Taylor. This British lady can solo in the best Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins tradition, but also can write a great tune. And the groove she and her band put down is simply irresistible. Her approach of Bluesrock is actually quite interesting as well, especially on her third album ‘Almost Always Never’, where all of her Blues, Rock and Soul influences come together to form a very tasty melange that is very hard to put down.

As much as I love Blues, its relatively little variation can be a reason to stay away from some of the genre’s defining albums. A true Blues great doesn’t just make Delta Blues, Country Blues, Chicago Blues or Bluesrock, they combine it to create something of their own. By that logic, Joanne Shaw Taylor is very well on her way to become a giant of the genre. Her compositions don’t take any notion of subgenre borders and are just preoccupied with being good songs, her somewhat raspy alto fits those songs perfectly and her guitar playing is wild in the solo department and servicable during songs.

Being a Bluesrocker by origin, the Rockers on this album were a case of love at first hearing. ‘Tied & Bound’ alone would have been worth what I paid for the album, with its big riff, monstrous groove, fanastic solo section at the end and chorus that won’t leave your head for days. It’s one of the best Bluesrock songs I’ve heard in a long time. Opening track ‘Soul Station’ also has an awesome groove and an exciting build-up towards its brooding chorus, while ‘Standing To Fall’ has a dirty riff and an inspirational, somewhat psychedelic jam in the middle section.

However, when Taylor shows some more restraint, it results into some impressive songs as well. ‘Army Of One’ sounds like a mixture of Country Blues and Led Zeppelin’s acoustic material, ‘You Should Stay, I Should Go’, while having the urgency of the Rock songs, has a more laid-back R&B groove, ‘Beautifully Broken’ is reminiscent of Gov’t Mule’s more restrained material (it’s not a cover though!) and could have been a big single with the right promotion and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ is a dark, slithering masterpiece of late sixties, early seventies psychedelic grooves and exciting climaxes.

Okay, so I have a weak spot for musicians that can both jam and write great songs. But if you’re into Bluesrock at all and you give Joanne Shaw Taylor a chance, I’m sure you will fall for her music as well. Especially on ‘Almost Always Never’, as it’s extremely well written and possibly even better performance-wise. Taylor and her band settle for fantastic grooves and the dry production of the album really emphasizes that. I’d take this over Joe Bonamassa any day. This goes far beyond my ladies with Les Pauls fetish, this is just really, really good music that deserves to be heard by anyone. And with her being 27, hopefully she has plenty more of this to come.

Recommended tracks: ‘Tied & Bound’, ‘Soul Station’, ‘Army Of One’, ‘Maybe Tomorrow’

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