Joanne Shaw Taylor has been around for a long time, signed to Dave Stewart’s record label at an early age, before throwing herself wholeheartedly into making kick-ass blues rock on records like Diamonds in the Dirt and Almost Always Never. Her career has even seen her join Annie Lennox on stage during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert.
It’s therefore no surprise that expectations are high for her latest release, entitled The Dirty Truth.
The album opens with the single Mud Honey and everything is business as usual, raspy vocals mated to high voltage guitar playing, a hefty riff and punchy solos. It’s the style she’s been polishing since her debut, and the work shows, it’s crisp, tight and exciting, and more importantly everything an existing fan could want.
However, no artist is at their best unless they’re pushing and trying something new. Resting on your laurels is no recipe for creative forward motion, and it’s not long before Joanne shows us that she has no intention of standing still. The record’s second song, title track The Dirty Truth, adds an almost traditional blues boogie, an insistent rhythm and produces something that is identifiably JST, but is brilliantly fresh and new. Moments like this are all over the record, Fool In Love has a slight country lilt while making me think a little of John Mayer, Wrecking Ball has some funky guitar and almost sounds as if a mad scientist has taken some old school soul and dropped in some hard rock DNA in a genetically modified hybrid of doom.
It’s things like this that make this a special record. It’s not going to alienate anyone who already likes Jo, but it hasn’t stood still, it isn’t to formula, and it offers new sounds and feels. It’s almost like putting on a pair of glasses and seeing the world for the first time in colour, the shapes and textures are instantly familiar, but theres a greater excitement, a richer experience.
In common with other Joanne Shaw Taylor albums this has a thickness, a density, in its sound. Things are heavily layered and while on prior records this left things sounding confused, here a better job has been done on the mix. There are layers to explore and threads to follow, and spaces that you can explore. It’s fresher and a lighter load to bear than in the past and this, combined with the new styles Joanne is exploring will make for an easier ride for new listeners.
Here we have a great record, the best Joanne has produced thus far. Equal parts magic and skill, she’s beginning to show us exactly what she’s capable of. The thing is I can only see her getting better!