Album of the Week 40-2014: Joanne Shaw Taylor – The Dirty Truth

Fourth album ‘The Dirty Truth’ finds British Bluesrocker Joanne Shaw Taylor at an important stage of her carreer, where exclusively calling her a Blues artist is starting to sell her short. There have always been traces of Soul, seventies Rock music and less prominently Americana in her music and all of these influences are slowly starting to blend with and complement each other. But where ‘Almost Always Never’ was wildly eclectic – and incredibly good as such – ‘The Dirty Truth’ is Taylor’s most concise set of songs thus far. And the album most driven by awesome grooves.

No song better demonstrates the melting pot of influences than its title track. The song has a strong, funky Rock groove, but the subdued chicken picking riff that leads the song is something you’d generally find on a Country record. And it all flows together nicely. Personally, I’m really fond of this sort of genre mixing, but Blues based artists especially often get stuck in their specific guitar approach. Taylor clearly has a familiarity and fondness for all the genres she tackles in her songwriting as well as in her playing.

While the album has a certain flow that makes perfect sense, there’s a few standout tracks. ‘Wicked Soul’ has one of the meanest grooves as well as one of the darkest vocal melodies Taylor has ever attempted, which made it one of the most pleasant surprises upon first lesson. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is built upon a fundament of pure, unadulterated Funk, making it a track where Memphis drumming legend Steve Potts really feels like a fish in the water. ‘Outlaw Angel’ has a huge riff and opening track ‘Mud, Honey’ has some of Taylor’s most traditionally Bluesy vocal performances. Even the ballads groove, with ‘Tried, Tested & True’ and ‘Shiver & Sign’ shining brightly. The latter brings to mind the eighties power ballad, but sounds a lot less glossy and a hell of a lot more sincere due to Taylor’s rootsy approach.

Vocally, ‘The Dirty Truth’ shows an enormous progression for Taylor. It’s as if the potential that was always there in her raw and passionate howls is finally fully realized. There’s more depth than ever and a broader sprectrum of expression as well. She had a powerful delivery, which is sort of essential in Blues and Soul territories, but it seems she’s found qualities to her voice that have been undiscovered before. Fans of Beth Hart and Joss Stone should definitely give Taylor’s voice a try.

Like ‘Almost Always Never’ before it, ‘The Dirty Truth’ finds Taylor branching out from her Blues roots. And while the approach – a total blend of all the influences – is different, the results are equally satisfying. I would say the album is her best so far. It’s her greatest triumph yet in terms of songwriting and the performance of every musician leaves very little, if anything, to be desired. In fact, the only thing would be more of this. Taylor is an exceptional talent in all bases she covers and deserves to be heard by any fan of good music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Wicked Soul’, ‘Wrecking Ball’, ‘The Dirty Truth’, ‘Shiver & Sign’

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