Joanne Shaw Taylor – Nobody’s Fool
KTBA Records – 2022
11 tracks; 45 minutes
Joanne Shaw Taylor’s 2021 release The Blues Album and live follow-up Blues From The Heart were definitely blues albums but on her latest album Joanne gives us a set of songs that play to her strengths as vocalist and guitar player but are more in the rock and ballad style than blues. Again working with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith as co-producers, the album was recorded in L.A. with many of the usual JoBo collaborators: Reese Wynans is on the B3, Calvin Turner bass, Lemar Carter drums, Joe and Josh on rhythm guitars; also involved are keyboardist Deron Johnson and backing vocalists Danielle De Andrea, Gaby Moreno and Jeff Young. Tina Guo guests on cello on one cut, Carmen Vandenberg adds a guitar solo to one track and a horn section of Steve Patrick and Jeff Bailey (trumpet/flugelhorn), Barry Green and Matt Jefferson (trombone) and Mark Douthit and Jimmy Bowland (saxes and flute) appear on two tracks. Joanne, of course, is on lead vocals and guitar throughout. Joanne wrote most of the songs here, some in collaboration with Beth Nielsen Chapman, James House, Sharon Corbitt and Leslie Satcher; Joe Bonamassa has a credit on one song, Josh Smith co-wrote one with Calvin Turner and Dylan Altman and there is one cover.
The album opens in strong fashion with the title track, Joanne’s initial riff recalling George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, before Joe and Josh add to the chunky riff. Joanne’s vocal here is excellent, really suiting a song which sets out her personal philosophy about relationships: “I’m someone to no one, I’ve always lived by that rule, ‘cause when you’re nothing to no one, baby, then you’re nobody’s fool”. Acoustic guitar adds a Spanish/Mexican feel to “Bad Blood”, a tale of a relationship that ended on a sour note while “Won’t Be Fooled Again” is quite a ‘poppy’, radio-friendly, song, enriched by a soaring solo from Joe. The horns beef up the heavier “Just No Getting Over You” in which Joanne appears to be heading in quite the opposite direction to the previous songs, seeming totally smitten, hence perhaps the sub-title of the song – “Dream Cruise”!
The album tends to alternate heavier and lighter songs and next up is the stripped-back ballad “Fade Away”, Joanne’s breathy vocals set against solo piano and Tina Guo’s cello. True to the format, “Then There’s You” is a full-on rocker and “Runaway” a light tune with a folksy feel from the gentle guitars and acoustic underpinnings. Joanne started playing at age 16 when she was spotted by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics whose “Missionary Man” (co-written by Annie Lennox) is reprised here, Dave guesting on the track. “Figure It Out” is another rocker, a frenetic tune with a heavily distorted solo from guest Carmen Vandenberg. In contrast there is plenty of delicate guitar work on “The Leaving Kind”, a gentle ballad of regret with acoustic and electric guitar solos, both impressive, before the horn-driven “New Love”, written by Josh Smith/Calvin Turner/Dylan Altman. From the opening sax solo this is a powerful, soulful number that pounds along with positive, forward-looking lyrics to end the album on another high note.
This is not a blues album, but Joanne’s vocals and guitar work are solid throughout and there are several strong songs here.