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Joanne Shaw Taylor - Wild (Album Review)

Wednesday, 05 October 2016 Written by Simon Ramsay

“If you’re not blown away, I’ll give you your money back.” When Kevin Shirley, producer of ‘Wild’, made that bold statement prior to the record’s release, it immediately smacked of a brazen PR soundbite. He always talks a good game, but this superlative fifth effort from British guitar heroine Joanne Shaw Taylor packs enough musical TNT to make his words feel more prophetic than an example of shameless marketing spin.

It would be an understatement to say Shirley knows a thing or two about turning a promising blues-based guitarist into a major heavyweight. This is, after all, the man who helped navigate Joe Bonamassa’s remarkable rise to the top and it’s unsurprising he’s applied the same blueprint to Taylor.

Regular Bonamassa collaborators like bassist Michael Rhodes, saxophonist Paulie Cerra, horn player Lee Thornburg and the backing singers who featured on his ‘Live At The Greek Theatre’ album have all been drafted in to bolster the attack on ‘Wild’. Rob McNelley’s presence, meanwhile, gives Taylor another guitarist to bounce off.

Given the familiarity of these choices, you may be wondering exactly where Taylor’s stamp will be left. But, although Shirley has used his experience to sagely amplify her strongest traits while eliminating some past weaknesses, ‘Wild’ showcases an incredibly talented singer, songwriter and guitarist at the peak of her creative powers.  

Where older albums contained various degrees of filler and repetition, every song here is supremely classy, distinctively textured and instantly memorable. That’s aided by an abundance of superb backing vocals from Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Jade MacRae adding style and swagger to tremendous hard rockers and spellbinding soul bijous.  

The crunching riff that anchors In Chains is the missing link between ZZ Top and Deep Purple, Nothing To Lose and If You Wanna Be My Lover are engine-revving road anthems ignited by greasy fretwork and No Reason To Stay comes on like a silkier Dire Straits, all crisp picking, moody piano chords and simmering gospel hooks.

Taylor’s vocal delivery occasionally lacked clarity in the past, but her smoky rasp has never sounded more lucid, soulful and alluring than it does on Wild Is The Wind and Gershwin’s Summertime. The former’s been covered by David Bowie and Nina Simone, but with its moonlit ambience, husky emoting and impassioned lead bursts, this version may be definitive. The latter is equally special and combines a hazy mist of sensual Ella Fitzgerald jazz, romantic crooning and bluesy six-string.

If that’s a slight stylistic departure, Leon Russell co-write My Heart’s Got A Mind Of Its Own is completely new territory for Taylor. Pumping out the same brassy big band sound as those Bonamassa and Beth Hart albums it may be the one time you feel Shirley pulling the strings, but it’s a bouncing ball of fun that epitomises the record’s wonderful variety.

Taylor’s exploration of relationships in their various stages of bliss and breakdown ties these diverse tracks together with a very personal bow. I Wish I Could Wish You Back is a painfully honest letter of apology, the fierce Rory Gallagher charge of Get You Back a revenge-fuelled firecracker and the pounding, sexy swing of Ready To Roll the embodiment of lust.

We’ve always known Taylor would be a major player in the niche world of fiery blues-rock, but ‘Wild’ delivers enough crossover appeal to entice the kind of massive audiences you-know-who now commands on a regular basis. And, as for Shirley, it’s safe to say no one who encounters this album will be demanding recompense from him any time soon.

Joanne Shaw Taylor Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri October 07 2016 - HOLMFIRTH Holmfirth Picturedrome
Fri October 14 2016 - TAVISTOCK Tavistock Wharf
Sat October 15 2016 - CARDIFF Globe
Sun October 16 2016 - BRISTOL THE FLEECE
Mon October 17 2016 - WORCESTER Huntingdon Hall
Thu October 20 2016 - NOTTINGHAM Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Fri October 21 2016 - CHESTER Live Rooms
Sat October 22 2016 - SOUTHPORT Atkinson
Sun October 23 2016 - SHREWSBURY Theatre Severn
Wed October 26 2016 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Thu October 27 2016 - STOCKTON Stockton Arc
Fri October 28 2016 - DUNFERMLINE Carnegie Hall
Sat October 29 2016 - ABERDEEN Lemon Tree
Mon October 31 2016 - BURY Bury Elizabethan Suite Town Hall
Wed November 02 2016 - SOUTHAMPTON Brook
Thu November 03 2016 - BRIGHTON Komedia
Fri November 04 2016 - HARPENDEN Harpenden Public Halls
Sat November 05 2016 - BURY ST EDMUNDS Apex
Thu January 19 2017 - GATESHEAD Sage Gateshead
Fri January 20 2017 - GLASGOW O2 ABC Glasgow
Sat January 21 2017 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 2
Wed January 25 2017 - NORWICH UEA The Waterfront
Thu January 26 2017 - SHEFFIELD Sheffield City Hall
Fri January 27 2017 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Sat January 28 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Town Hall

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