Joanne Shaw Taylor is a blues rock musician in the absolute same vein as Jimi Hendrix: foremost a sensationally soulful guitarist, with a gutsy, wild voice and a good songwriter to match. And like Hendrix, she’s a charismatic performer, owning the stage and feeling every note from her voice and from her guitar.
Despite her many talents, it’s her guitar playing that steals the show. With intense vibrato and bends, her solos cry, wail and churn with distinctive power and presence. In other places she toys with tender harmonics in extreme overdrive, or virtuosically sustains a note through vibrato on a clean tone. Her solos tend towards being a series of fragments rather than a cohesive whole, and occasionally I felt that a ceiling of technical ability meant she skirted around three repeated notes rather than taking off into a shred. But what makes her such an exceptional guitarist is the bite and whine she creates with inimitable soul, as well as her skill for pulling around the rhythm, and I would have gladly watched her perform an instrumental set.
As a vocalist, the Black Country born Taylor sounds like a mix between Norah Jones and Aerosmith, one moment breathy and vulnerable as she sings, “No good reason to stay / Good reason to go”, the next hoarsely yelling like a stadium rock star. Her songs are exciting and varied, all pretty much in the classic blues rock idiom, though it was clear from the crowd we were all really there for the solos.
With a large international fanbase and her latest album in the UK top 20, Taylor puts on a surprisingly low-key show and lets her music do the talking. With only three other band members, no special staging and not much chat between songs, the impression is of a tight-knit group that really care about communicating the music they love to play together. Taylor is a dynamite musician and a prolific writer (six albums in the last eight years); get out and see her on tour while she’s still playing small and intimate venues.