JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
THE NEW LIVE ALBUM: SONGS FROM THE ROAD
2-Disc CD/DVD Set
U.S. Release Date on Ruf Records:
November 12, 2013
ATLANTA, GA - One night. One shot. No safety net. If there was pressure afoot as Joanne Shaw Taylor walked onstage at The Borderline club in the U.K. on May 12th, 2013, then the bandleader used it as rocket-fuel, channeling the vibe into the set of her life. Now, that explosive performance is captured on Songs From The Road: a live album with the soul power to jostle the greats off the podium, coming November 12 on Ruf Records.
“I’m really pleased with it,” says Joanne. “It’s everything I wanted it to be.”
As the latest release in Ruf Records’ acclaimed Songs From The Road series, this CD/DVD set is the live album her fans have been screaming for. “The timing is good,” agrees Joanne. “My fans, and especially the blues fans, have been asking me for a live album for a while now. I’m glad that we waited, and didn’t do it two years ago, because hopefully I’ve improved. We’ve done three studio albums now, so I think the live album ties all the albums together.”
A seasoned road-warrior since 2009’s debut album, White Sugar, Joanne has nothing to fear from the stage, but the demands of her diary meant Songs From The Road presented a logistical challenge. “We only had one chance to do it because of my schedule,” she reflects. “If I’d have played terribly – which fortunately I don’t think I did – it would have been unusable. It worked out really well, and I think a big part of that is because the fans were so good.
“We wanted to do it in London,” Joanne continues, “and the reason for picking The Borderline was because I wanted something small and intimate. I grew up being inspired by those small Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins club gigs, and I wanted to have that same ‘everyone-packed-in-like-sardines’ vibe – as opposed to a big production and losing some of that intimacy.”
If the crowd brought the atmosphere, then Joanne brought the songs. While some bands merely sleepwalk through the hits live, Songs From The Road finds the bandleader pulling her back catalogue around by the hair, ensuring that from early favorites like Going Home to current roof-raisers like Soul Station, these songs are very different beasts to the studio originals.
“I think there’s a very different energy live: that’s probably the main thing,” she notes. “I’m a live guitar player. There’s definitely more guitar in my live show than on any of the albums. I tend to lose all sense of control once I get onstage and everything is twenty beats faster than it’s meant to be! And there were no overdubs, so what you hear is what you get.”
Sold out venues. Screaming crowds. Her name in lights. Joanne Shaw Taylor never anticipated any of that at the start. Back then, she was just an ordinary “black country” schoolgirl, bored with the disposable pop she heard on the radio growing up in her native Birmingham, England, rifling through her father’s record collection for sunken treasure, and falling for albums by SRV, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix.
“Guitars were lying around the house,”recalls Joanne. At 13, she’d picked up her first electric and practiced every minute.
At 14, she defied her teachers to play at the legendary Marquee and Ronnie Scott’s clubs in London, and began to overcome insecurity about her voice. “I never set out to be a singer,” she modestly told Classic Rock. “I’ve always had a deep voice. I think it came from my influences as a kid. When I was singing to records, I was listening to Albert Collins and Freddie King. When I was a teenager, I became a big rock fan: Glenn Hughes, Skin, Doug Pinnick. I wouldn’t get far on The X Factor.”
Joanne left school at 16 and ran straight into her big break, as a twist of fate directed her demo into the hands of Eurythmics icon Dave Stewart after a charity gig.
Reflecting on his first impressions, Stewart recalls that “she made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.” His call the following day proved the start of a lasting friendship, with Joanne seeking his advice on the industry and even accompanying his DUP supergroup across Europe in 2002.
Stewart gave Joanne her first deal, but when the label ran into financial trouble, it gave her a chance to regroup and work on her songwriting. Until then, original material had perhaps been a neglected side of her talent.
“I never really wrote songs until I was 21.” Suddenly the dam broke. In 2008, Ruf won the rush for Joanne’s signature, and soon she was working with veteran producer Jim Gaines (Carlos Santana, Johnny Lang, SRV), bassist Dave Smith and drummer Steve Potts on the songs that became her debut album, White Sugar.
“We recorded it in this little backwater town in Tennessee,” she recalls, “and if we needed a break, we’d walk to the shop and buy root beer.”
When White Sugar dropped the following year, taking in gems like “Bones” and “Kiss The Ground Goodbye,” it turned out the press had a sweet tooth, with Classic Rock crowning it Blues Album Of The Month and Guitarist noting “she plays with more attitude and flair than most – massive potential here.”
Soon enough, the buzz was building, with Joanne both raising her profile supporting Black Country Communion, and honing her craft on 2010’s Diamonds In The Dirt. This second album was another step up, from the explosive lead breaks on “Can’t Keep Living Like This” to the heavier influence of her adopted Detroit hometown on the crunching country-blues of “Dead And Gone.” Not bad, considering she had written the material in just two days and recorded it in less than a fortnight: “It’s the dreaded second album curse. You have ten years to do the first one, and ten days to do the second!”
By then, she was unstoppable, with Diamonds In The Dirt proving not only a classic record, but also a skeleton key to every door in the industry. Having received a nomination for “Best New Artist Debut” at the auspicious British Blues Awards for White Sugar, Joanne scooped consecutive wins in the “Best British Female Vocalist” bracket at both the 2010/2011 events: a haul that cements her position, as Blues Matters put it, as “the new face of the blues.”
Since then, it’s gone stratospheric, with Joanne breaking into the notoriously hard-to-crack U.S. market, beating the stereotypes of her age and gender, and being watched by 17 million viewers as she played an angel-winged solo during Annie Lennox’s set at Queen Elizabeth’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert. That same summer gave us Almost Always Never: a bar-raising third album that found Joanne dodging expectations, writing the songs her muse dictated, and diving in at the deep end with just her talent to keep her afloat.
Recorded in Austin, Texas, those 12 cuts on Almost Always Never moved from the savage Les Paul solos of “Soul Station” and the strutting hooks of “Standing To Fall,” to the failed relationship achingly depicted on “You Should Stay, I Should Go” and the title track’s refrain of “You crash, you burn/you live, you learn.” She’d never sounded more open and honest. “I’ve loved every album I’ve made for many different reasons,” reflects Joanne. “But I’m so proud of these songs. It’s the perfect and truest example of who I am as an artist to date.”
Maybe so, but if you only know Joanne Shaw Taylor as the songwriter and studio magician, then it’s time you heard Songs From The Road. Released in November, 2013 on Ruf Records, it’s a candid snapshot from the road that makes your front room feel like the front row. “That night was just really good fun,” she reflects. “And I think that translates on the album.”
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