Joanne Shaw Taylor plays Blues From The Heart Live

Joanne Shaw Taylor plays Blues From The Heart Live

Joanne Shaw Taylor plays Blues From The Heart Live a stupendous album recorded live in support of The Blues Album which was stupendous too. Add in the live audience, the ridiculously talented Joanne, star guests and faultless performances all round and you get an unmissable package of impeccable blues and blues-rock.

Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – a stupendous album recorded live in support of The Blues Album which was stupendous too. Add in the live audience, the ridiculously talented Joanne, star guests and faultless performances all round and you get an unmissable package of impeccable blues and blues-rock.

I count myself fortunate that, on a whim back in 2009, I bought an album called White Sugar by the then relatively unknown Joanne Shaw Taylor…to say my flabber was gasted is a major understatement. It was an album of sheer brilliance both vocally and instrumentally and I’ve been in love ever since! Of course, she is much better known now and respected throughout the industry. Her five subsequent studio albums: Diamonds in the Dirt, Almost Always Never, The Dirty Truth, Wild and Reckless Heart plus the live Songs From the Road album cemented, quite rightly, that reputation. They are all exceedingly good but it is White Sugar I turn to mostly… the ecstasy of the titular instrumental and the heart-melting vocal of Kiss the Ground Goodbye, as well as all of the other tracks, meant a place is always reserved in my heart and ears for Joanne.

Then, last year found her on Joe Bonamassa’s KTBA records for the brilliant Blues Album, which was welcomed wholeheartedly to sit alongside all of the others. Now, in support of that album, we have a live set that brings the tracks to an enthusiastic audience…and us. As Joanne says, “I don’t think I possess the vocabulary to accurately describe what it felt like to walk onstage at the Franklin Theatre for what was only my second live show in almost two years.

I think, for me it was a dream gig. One I could have ever only hoped to be able to perform over two decades ago when I first picked up an electric guitar and started learning blues classics in my small bedroom in Cheswick Green, England”.

Called simply, and very descriptively, Blues from The Heart Live, it is live, it is blues and with a stellar performance from all involved, it is certainly from the heart.

Stop Messin’ Around was the lead track on The Blues Album, on the original on Fleetwood Mac’s Mr Wonderful and so it is here. Although the mix isn’t quite right, it does improve as the track runs and, by the time the stunning guitar solo arrives, all is well. If That Ain’t A Reason is the first of two little Milton numbers and was pure genius on the studio version: this live reading is just as good. Superb vocals, guitar breaks and solo from JST and a perfect freeform piano, then Hammond solo too. Keep On Lovin’ Me was originally an Otis Rush song, updated many times since, although I hear Magic Sam in this interpretation and it delivers everything you want in a blues update…faithful yet new and instrumentally brilliant.

The opening vocal found me falling in love all over again as If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody starts. Written by Rudy Clark, is another oft-covered number; my favourite has to be The Artwoods or possibly Vanilla Fudge’s version…until now. JST puts her sheen on, I think, the Aretha Franklin version and maintains the soul backing while adding a fiery solo of considerable skill.

Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me is from the great Albert King: here we get such a sensitive reading that pays due deference to Albert but shows how adaptable, skilled and talented Joanne is and, with Kenny Wayne Shepherd alongside adding similarly scintillating runs, it is just superb…check out the video on this one which shows how good a performance it was and will ensure you go for the CD/DVD package like me. Let Me Down Easy, the second Little Milton song shows Joannes’ vocal range really well as she pours her heart and soul into communicating the lyrics…a slow, burning song that has acres of room for a burning solo to add even more emotion. Two Time My Lovin’ came from the pen of Kim Wilson, the vocalist and formidable harp player of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and is rhythm and blues par excellence: this is how to bring the sixties up to date while preserving the feel of the original. The sax adds nice touches as we are sans harp, and the subtly clever guitar solo is an absolute treat.

I Don’t Know What You’ve Got is rooted in Little Richard’s performance of this intricate song and, as on the studio recording, has Mike Farris guesting. Mike was in SRV’s Double Trouble for a while but I know him best from his Silver and Stone solo album that also featured a certain Mr Bonamassa and Mr Wynans. Mike joins Joanne again on this live version and they gel again, although it is sometimes hard to pick out Mike’s contribution, it is there. Three Time Loser was covered by the gorgeous Bonnie Raitt so well, and JST brings her style to keep it the same but different…extra special vocals and, after a very neat piano solo, another genius guitar solo with that trademark JST ‘attack’ that wrests such feel from the strings. Dyin’ To Know You sees us begin a section of JST originals: from the lovely Wild album, this song stays faithful to the studio but with an added edginess from the first drum stick clatter through the gorgeous vocal and the fiery solo. (there is some very nice slide too which I’m guessing is from Rob McNelly…I’ll confirm that when I get the DVD.)

Next up is a track from my favourite JST album, White Sugar, and the smoky and smokin’ Just Another Word. Joanne plays the intro chords lighter and gentler than in 2009 but this song is stunning in both forms. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long comes from Reckless Heart and again stays faithful but brings a new dimension on the stage…this is nigh on seven minutes of blissful blues with guitar and vocal sharing their emotions with superb backing from the band. I’m In Chains co-written with James House, is also from Wild and the Man On The Silver Mountain (sort of) intro still sends shivers as Joanne solos over the chords…a great song made greater by this live interpretation. A shimmering Hammond solo is followed by an intelligent and searing guitar solo to top it off. It’s back to covers for the last two tracks:

Don’t Go Away Mad was from Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, Jim Keltner and John Hiatt: a sort of supergroup that released one, self-titled, album. Joe Bonamassa featured in the studio and does so again adds his vocals and a blistering solo matched by JST, beautifully. Summertime, yes that one, appeared on the Wild album and there and here we get Mr Bonamassa adding his touches to make a ‘show tune’ into a serious piece of blues-rock. Keys wash the background and the two guitarists add flourishes and then tasteful, crafted and simply lovely solos that fit perfectly with the languid blues that transforms a song I’d never give house room to, into a regularly played track.

The final track, Only You And I Know (was a solo song by Traffic’s Dave Mason) with Joe Bonamassa still on stage, the pair give it a whole new sound…the funky hints remain but the blues are strong as JB takes the first verse enthusiastically harmony choruses and JST taking the second verse before a great key solo and guitar solos suggests that these two need to a) tour together more and b) record and release an album together.

Seventy-eight minutes of live blues bliss…no between-song chat which may have been interesting to hear but this is all about the music. Everyone on that stage performed impeccably and JST should be immensely proud of this significant recording.

Joanne Shaw Taylor plays Blues From The Heart Live

Track Listing and composer(s) – Guest:
Stop Messin’ Around (Clifford Adams, Peter Green)*
If That Ain’t A Reason (Donald Davis, Marshall Jones, Carl Smith)*
Keep On Lovin’ Me (Otis Rush)*
If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody (Rudy Clark)*
Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me (Albert King) with Kenny Wayne Shepherd*
Let Me Down Easy (Maurice Dollison)*
Two Time My Lovin’ (Kim Wilson)*
I Don’t Know What You’ve Got ( Donald Covay, Horace Hall) – Mike Farris*
Three Time Loser (Donald Covay, Ronald Miller)*
Dyin’ To Know You (Joanne Shaw Taylor)**
Just Another Word (JST)***
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (JST)****
I’m In Chains (JST, James House)**
Don’t Go Away Mad (Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Jim Keltner, Nick Lowe) – Joe Bonamassa*
Summertime (George and Ira Gershwin, Dubs Hayward, Dorothy Kuhns) – Joe Bonamassa**
Only You And I Know (Dave Mason) – Joe Bonamassa

* studio version on The Blues Album
** – studio version on Wild
*** – studio version on White Sugar
**** – studio version on Reckless Heart

(The accompanying DVD has a bonus track, I’m No Angel as well as the ubiquitous “All Access” behind the scenes footage.)

Musicians:
Joanne Shaw Taylor: guitar, vocals
Rob McNelley: guitar
Steve Mackey: bass
Nick Buda: drums
Jimmy Wallace: keyboards
Devon Fowlkes, Kim Fleming: background vocals
Guests:
Mike Farris: vocals
Kenny Wayne Shepherd: guitar
Joe Bonamassa: guitar, vocals
Dave McMurray: saxophone

Produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith and was mixed by Kevin Shirley

Joanne Shaw Taylor plays Blues From The Heart Live

Joanne Shaw Taylor’s new live album “Blues From The Heart Live” is released by KTBA Records on June 10th
 via www.ktbarecords.com

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(After loads more JST, iTunes took me to Joseph Leon (Jody) Williams and a song from the year of my birth, Moanin’ For Molasses…look it up! A lesser-known blues guitarist and singer, he’s well worth checking out.)

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