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Joanne Shaw Taylor - The Dirty Truth (Album Review)

Monday, 22 September 2014 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Rob Monk

It's safe to assume that, if they haven’t already, record company suits will try to turn blues-rock guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor into a more commercial property at some stage. But, they’ll have a fight on their hands, as on ‘The Dirty Truth’ she’s delivered a record that’s battered, beautiful and bubbling with passion and conviction.

Although Taylor's never over-complicated her music, this album displays her desire to return to a more elemental sound after 2012’s smooth 'Almost Always Never'. In cahoots with producer Jim Gaines, who oversaw her first two albums, this fourth effort is a gritty, stripped-back collection of songs that move from destructive to delicate in the beat of a broken heart.

Developing your own sound isn't easy in a genre that's been mined for every original idea, but Taylor injects venom and emotional truth into this classic format. Although blues-based, she loves to crank up the rig and steer it into harder, heavier territory.  

Ample evidence is provided by the uncompromising one-two punch of Mud Honey and the title track. The former spins its dark tale of a sinister gangster over furious rhythms and unyielding soloing, while the latter's account of a scorned, pistol-packing partner finds our heroine shooting back as country-fried blues picking and atom bomb grooves explode.

This lyrical sharpness is prevalent throughout and, while Taylor could sometimes enunciate more clearly, her stories possess a believable depth and sincerity. The crisp, funky grooves of Wrecking Ball and Struck Down's muddy rhythms, for example, chronicle pain with unflinching candour.

Fans of Taylor’s earthy melodies are in for a treat too, as it's not all turned up to 11. Wicked Soul seduces with expressive vocals and fizzing fretwork, while the sun-kissed Like A Fool enchants. The dexterity of her picking on Feels Like Home, meanwhile, makes for an uplifting finale.

The album’s undoubted highlight, though, is mesmerising and moody live favourite Shiver And Sigh. Although it struggled to fit on previous albums it's right at home here, with Taylor’s voice hypnotising as its dark bassline pulses towards a smouldering chorus and scorching lead break.

The most pleasing aspect of 'The Dirty Truth' is the strength of the songwriting. There's no hint of filler or the old blues tendency of including weaker tracks that merely serve as vehicles for guitar fireworks. Instead, her playing is astute and flavours each song perfectly.

Aside from quality and class, a Joanne Shaw Taylor release guarantees a number of things: there will be instrumental pugilism, there will be candlelight heartache and there will be sublime six string expression. But most of all, there won't be a single second of bullshit.

Joanne Shaw Taylor Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat November 01 2014 - NORWICH Epic Studios
Sun November 02 2014 - SHEFFIELD City Hall
Mon November 03 2014 - LEEDS Wardrobe
Tue November 04 2014 - MANCHESTER RNCM - Studio Theatre
Thu November 06 2014 - ABERDEEN Lemon Tree
Fri November 07 2014 - GLASGOW Arches, Glasgow
Sat November 08 2014 - STOCKTON Arc
Wed November 12 2014 - EXETER Corn Exchange
Thu November 13 2014 - FALMOUTH Princess Pavilion
Fri November 14 2014 - SALISBURY City Hall
Sat November 15 2014 - BIRMINGHAM Town Hall
Tue November 18 2014 - CARDIFF Globe
Wed November 19 2014 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Thu November 20 2014 - BURY Apex

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