Joanne Shaw Taylor – Wild
Silvertone/Sony Music 19075867742
11 songs – 50 minutes
Blues-rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor has proven herself as one of the best artists in the field since being discovered at age 16 by The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, charts new territory with this album, the first release under her three-record deal with Sony’s recently revived Silvertone imprint.
Taylor has compiled an impressive collection of honors for four previous albums on Ruf Records and her own Axehouse label since emerging at age 23 out of England’s Black Country – located in the West Midlands between Birmingham and the Irish Sea — with White Sugar in 2009.
In addition to garnering multiple best female vocalist prizes in the British Blues Awards, she’s also been recognized as its songwriter of the year, and her albums consistently place in the Billboard Top Ten charts in the U.S. Her fanbase includes several superstars, including John Mayall, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Wilko Johnson and others.
Influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Albert Collins, she’s equally gifted as a guitarist and vocalist, possessing a warm, rich alto that’s just as powerful as the talent she displays on the six-string. She delivers her lyrics virtually free of the accent of her homeland that she’d displayed previously.
This disc was recorded in Nashville’s Grand Victor Sound Studios under the supervision of Kevin Shirley, who’s produced a diverse group of artists, including Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Journey and Joe Bonamassa. Joanne penned nine of the 11 tracks here – either on her own or in collaboration with a who’s who of songsmiths, including Leon Russell, Gary Nicholson and James House, among others.
She’s backed by guitarist Rob McNelly and keyboard player Steve Nathan with a rhythm section of Greg Morrow on drums and Michael Rhodes on bass. Paulie Cerra (sax) and Lee Thornburg (trumpet) provide horns with backing vocals delivered by Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tippins and Jade MacRae.
Rapid triplets on the drums drive the opener, “Dyin’ To Know,” with Hill Country feel before it explodes into a searing blues rocker. It describes someone alternately lost in the haze or in a maze as he tries to find his way home. Shaw Taylor’s mid-tune solo shines. A seven-note guitar hook propels the stop-time pleaser “Ready To Roll,” which instructs a lover to “take me where you want to/Give me what I need/Say what I want to hear/If you really want to get to me” – an irresistible offer coming from the blonde beauty whose images dominate most of the eight-page booklet that accompanies the disc.
“Get You Back” delivers a promise of upcoming revenge for a guilty man atop a steady four-four beat, while the funky “No Reason To Stay” seamlessly continues the theme. “Wild Is The Wind,” penned by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington — a hit first for Johnny Mathis in 1957, then Nina Simone and David Bowie – becomes a tender, pensive, seven-minute ballad under Joanne’s touch as it describes the new life the singer gains after a simple kiss. But the action heats up dramatically for the full-bore rocker, “Wanna Be My Lover,” which follows.
The opening guitar chords to “I’m In Chains” shift from right to left speaker before Shaw Taylor sings about the desire to be bound for life by a man who’s stolen her heart. Love’s apparently fleeting, however, because “I Wish I Could Wish You Back,” the ballad that follows, finds Joanne penning a letter, urging the guy to return.
“My Heart’s Got A Mind Of Its Own,” which follows, is acoustically different as it swings with full horn arrangements and an old-school soul-blues feel as it describes how the juxtaposition affects judgment in romance, while the multi-layered rocker “Nothin’ To Lose” clearly states the singer’s moving on. The album concludes with an interesting cover of George Gershwin’s familiar standard, “Summertime,” which is delivered as an unhurried ballad with Spanish guitar overtones.
Shaw Taylor’s Wild will provide eargasms for anyone with a love for blues rock. The blues here comes through loud and clear, and the instrumentation rocks. Strongly recommended.