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Joanne Shaw Taylor

Friday 27th January 2017

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

I first saw Joanne Shaw Taylor play at my local club, the Beaverwood Club in Chiselhurst on her White Sugar tour in 2009. A spectacularly talented Blues guitarist, this hard working Birmingham girl toured the pubs and clubs of the UK learning her trade as a professional musician, playing the screaming Blues licks that emulated her idols such as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Here was one of the new generation of young Blues guitarists, like Chantel McGregor and Samantha Fish, that were paving the way on the crest of the Joe Bonamassa wave of young Blues talent. And Joanne has an incredible voice to go along with her guitar skills. It’s smoky yet growling but never harsh. She has the power in songs like ‘Going Home’ to transcend the electricity crackling from her favoured Telecaster yet sultry and soothing in tracks like ‘Tried, Tested and True’. She is a real guitar genius with a talented singing voice.

A rising star, Joanne played to larger audiences at larger venues, supporting the likes of Joe Bonamassa and making the festival scene with the backing of people like the Planet Rock team. And she moved from Birmingham to Detroit and Memphis where she further honed her talents. So a cold wintry night saw her revisit the Shepherds Bush empire to promote her new album 'Wild'. Ably supporting her were fellow Brummies Broken Witt Rebels. A busy bunch of lads, they supported King King in December 2016 as well as playing a number of gigs of their own. Their set was far too short with only half a dozen tracks showcasing their musical skills, but a well-crafted set it was with Blues, Rock and even Soul influences.

With her latest album 'Wild' breaking the top 20 in the album chart, Joanne took to the stage this time with three backing musicians - a nod to the direction her music has been taking. Oliver Perry, sat behind a plexi screen that was reminiscent of the chicken wire protection provided to the Blues Brothers during their ‘Good Old Boys’ charade, provided a solid beat. Don’t worry, no beer bottles were hurled in his direction. Perry has been with JST for some years now as the touring drummer and really knows his stuff. New bassist Luigi Cassanova provided a steady bassline with an impressive dreadlocked appearance and Drew Wynan provided skilled rhythm guitar and keyboards. Less of a stripped down Blues act, more a rounded musical ensemble.

'Wild' is Joanne’s 5th studio album and was produced in Nashville by Kevin Shirley. The tracks on the album are well produced and show a movement in her career more towards the song writing and singing prowess and less towards her guitar skills. Don’t get me wrong, the dexterity of the vibratomatrix is still evident as she hammers on and pulls off with aplomb. But the focus seems to be the vocals. And that seemed to come across live too. I was all too conscious of the backing keyboards or rhythm guitar where I would usually be transfixed by the searing lead playing. The sound levels were fine, it just felt like the lead had fallen into the overall mix. To me, JST is a supreme guitar player who can sing beautifully. But the set was still fantastic. As part of her evolution, Joanne has added Gibson Les Paul’s to her arsenal and boy does she get the best out of them.

There is nothing finer than watching her disappear into a rapturous world of her own, lost in the moment of playing amazing Blues solos that would make even her idle SRV applaud along with the rest of us. In the early days, she would have covered an SRV or Hendrix track, much to our delight, but with a growing catalogue of her own, we are lucky if we get to hear our favourite JST track, let alone any covers. There was no special guest this tour either. I wondered if Bernie Marsden might appear again. Or Bonamassa. Or Clapton or Jeff Beck. With JST’s skills, anything is possible. The soloing on ‘Time Has Come’ was extraordinary. The contrast with the almost gentle cover of Johnny Mathis ‘Wild Is The Wind’, dedicated to David Bowie was notable. Both great performances but showed the diversity of the set. The night was another great performance from a truly talented artist. The hard playing SRV wannabe has been transformed into the smooth, polished, confident act of today. Is JST now a singer who plays guitar rather than a guitarist who sings? No, I don’t think so. She may have lost a bit of that raw edge we love when the pick starts to dance around the frets but we still remain devoted to our Brummie girl made good.

Set list:

Dyin' To Know

Nothing To Lose

No Reason To Stay

Jump That Train

Diamonds In The Dirt

Tried, Tested & True

Watch 'em Burn

Time Has Come

Wanna Be My Lover

Ready To Roll

Wild Is The Wind (Johnny Mathis cover - dedicated to David Bowie)

Tied & Bound


Going Home


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