If any proof were needed that you don’t have to have been born in America, be past the age of 30, nor have been born male to understand or more importantly feel how the blues can be played, audiences need look no further than Midlands raised Joanne Shaw Taylor and her incredible new album, Almost Always Never.
Birmingham and the surrounding areas of Bilston, Dudley and Wolverhampton are not readily known these days for the home of British Blues. The last 40 years the area naturally identified itself with the rock and booming heavy metal that echoes in its past as the manufacturing powerhouse of the British Isles, not so much the demure and delightful notes that this young woman can produce as if she made a Faustian pact with the devil of blues. However in reality she is following a path first carved by some pretty prestigious company.
Listening to Almost Always Never is like taking a trip through some of the most lavish, exuberant and dirty music available and then asking to be immersed in it again but this time up to the neck so you truly appreciate the depth of feeling Joanne is making as her point.
Soul Station opens up the album as if Ms. Shaw Taylor is in a hurry, eager to impress and succeeding at getting the introductions over and done with in double quick time. There isn’t time for the listener to bemoan the urgency, the apparent rush that Soul Station offers as it leads them into a false sense of perceived security. The song raises the gambit so quickly that by the time it is over they are more than ready for the album to continue in the same vein. However the second offering, the sensual and wonderfully sounding Beautifully Broken sees the tempo slow down, the introductions are over, both listener and musician know each other now and now the foreplay begins. It’s exciting, the sound she creates with her voice is reminiscent of Tina Turner at her very, very best, and it resonates down your ears, and gently soothes the raging beast. Very few musicians are able to do that and still maintain the interest of the listener for the rest of the album.
The album doesn’t take a lot to love, the relationship is almost one way with Joanne offering almost more than the listener is able to take without feeling as if they have somehow been given the keys to her soul and finding they have moved in with her. Still under 30, from these shores and best of all, the undisputed first lady of blues, how do you top that?
Almost Always Never is available to buy from Monday 17th 2012.
Ian D. Hall