Joanne Shaw Taylor, Nobody’s Fool, KTBA Records
We know Joanne Shaw Taylor as a blues artist and guitar slinger. Here, in her eighth studio album, she spreads her wings and expands the breadth and depth of her music with a delicious set of eleven hugely enjoyable songs, all but one written by herself.
“I didn’t have a script for this one; I was not chained to any one particular idea how it must sound,” she says, “I wanted to focus on the songwriting, and I was able to write whatever I was feeling. I had not done that before, and I must say it was a lovely experience.”
The pleasure’s all ours, though, with this set of classic sounding songs, graced with Taylor’s sultry, rasping vocals and her searing guitar work.
The album kicks off with Nobody’s Fool with its opening slide guitar riff reminiscent of George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord. This toe-tapping, head-nodding pieces of seventies British pop with some characteristic Joanne Shaw Taylor lead guitar breaking through along the way gets us off to a great start.
Then suddenly, in Bad Blood, we’re in a spaghetti western with its tolling bells, before it morphs in to just a great minor key rock song. Taylor’s gritty vocals, with great support from the backing vocals, and another searing guitar solo make this one to savour.
Won’t be Fooled Again (not The Who!) is a pure, top quality pop song, an upbeat break-up song, which Joe Bonamassa graces, wielding his electric guitar rather than his producer’s notes.
The variety in the set of songs makes for a very enjoyable listen and Fade Away is different from any of the preceding songs. Written by Taylor in memory of her mother, the song urges us to make the most of the time we have with those we love. Tina Guo’s plaintive cello adds poignancy to Taylor’s emotive vocals.
Then there’s the classic-sounding rock-pop number There’s You. The “bang a gong” T-Rex vibe from the rhythm sounded by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith and underpinned by Lemar Carter on drums and Calvin Turner on bass is a perfect backdrop for Taylor’s gripping vocal performance and her fast and furious fret work on the all too short guitar solo.
There’s more variety for us on Runaway, a more acoustic pop-inflected number, another very enjoyable, sunny track.
The one cover on the album is Missionary Man, an 1980s Eurythmics track which features a keyboard contribution from Dave Stewart. (Check out the original 1980s Eurythmics video). With Ms Taylor, it becomes a heavier, blues rock number and there’s no harmonica. Some great backing vocals support an impressive vocal performance from Taylor.
Figure it Out is an old fashioned, classic rock song from sometime in the 1980s which recalls Bruce Springsteen or maybe Gaslight Anthem. Carmen Vandenberg, a UK Grammy-nominated guitarist who has collaborated with Jeff Beck and the Smashing Pumpkins, gives the song something of a punk rock edge.
Taylor closes the album with a great big R&B song, complete with horns and searing guitar solos. New Love is an upbeat, joyous celebration featuring horns, terrific backing vocals and co-written by Ms Taylor with Beth Nielsen Chapman, Leslie Satcher, and Joe Bonamassa.
With this release Joanne Shaw Taylor proves herself to be not only an outstanding guitarist but a songwriter and singer of some prowess. It’s an album to savour and will repay repeated playings.