By Anita Stewart, Managing Editor
New Album Review: “The Blues Album”
Release Date: September 24, 2021
UK’s Black Country is where Joanne Shaw Taylor is from and she is a force to be reckoned with in the Blues Music world. Discovered by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics at the tender age of 16 after he saw her play, he promptly asked her to join him on the road. A career was launched back then and the 11-track “The Blues Album” will be her seventh studio recording and released on Joe Bonamassa‘s independent blues label KTBA (Keep the Blues Alive) Records. Rock at Night reviewed Joanne’s two singles released a few months ago; “If That Ain’t a Reason” and “Let Me Down Easy.” Check out those reviews HERE and HERE.
“The Blues Album,” the follow up to 2019’s critically acclaimed album “Reckless Heart,” features Josh Smith on guitar, Reese Wynans on keyboards, Greg Morrow on drums, Steve Mackey on bass, Steve Patrick on trumpet, Mark Douthit on sax, Barry Green on trombone. Bonamassa plays guitar and sings on the track “Don’t Go Away Mad.” Mike Farris also joins as a special guest vocalist on “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got.”
The album was produced and recorded by Bonamassa and Josh Smith at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. This duo is a pretty hot production team right now; they recently produced new albums for Joanna Connor, Jimmy Hall and Eric Gales. This album covers rare blues songs and B-side gems by such artists as: Albert King, Peter Green, Little Richard, Magic Sam, Aretha Franklin, Little Milton and more.
“Joe and Josh make a fantastic team,” insists Joanne. “Both bring something different to the table that the other maybe couldn’t. I loved working with them. I was worried about working with Joe for obvious reasons, (we are very close friends), but you never know how that will translate into a working relationship. It was cool to work with two guys not much older than me. Most of the producers I’ve worked with so far haven’t been so close to me in age, plus Joe and Josh have the added benefit of understanding what it is to tour on the same scene as me and what me touring this album will look like. All in all, it was a very relaxed fun session and hang.” She continued, “On the new album, I mostly played my own guitar, my 1966 Esquire ‘Junior. I tried to use a few of Joe’s Tele’s, but they’re set up for much bigger hands than mine. I did use Joe’s vintage amps – I believe one of his 60’s Vibroverbs mixed with a fumble overdrive for pretty much all of it. We didn’t use any pedals.”
“I’d known from the beginning of my recording career that one day I wanted to record an album of blues covers, I just wasn’t sure when the right time to do that would be,” says Joanne. “…I mentioned my new project idea to Joe Bonamassa,” recalls Joanne. “He asked me for my song choices. Immediately he began sending me notes and was texting me song suggestions. He was already acting as a mentor as well as an unofficial producer on “The Blues Album,” so I asked him if he’d fancy the job officially,” says Joanne. “Thankfully, he accepted. The Blues Album has been everything I hoped it would be. It’s been a labor of love, overseen by an artist, producer, and friend who I trust beyond measure.”
“We wanted to make a tough vocal centric straight blues record that showcases Joanne’s amazing talent but in a slightly different light,” explains Bonamassa. “Joanne is a dear friend and a superstar. Josh and I focused on testing her limits and pushing boundaries that might not have occurred before. It’s all about making a statement and having the listener want to play the music repeatedly. We try not to live in the well-worn trails of the blues,” continues Bonamassa. “Each song has to has to stand on its own while paying tribute to the original masters. If you focus on what people might not associate with an artist and work hard on those areas it allows her fans to discover things and sets her up in a different light. Joanne’s a great singer and always has been. The guitar unfortunately has over-shadowed it until now. A lot of us in the business have the same problem.”
“Joe made it known from the get-go that his main objective for this album was to push me as a singer,” says Joanne. “Obviously, Joe has seen me perform many times over the years and knows my voice well. I think he felt that he could my vocal performance more, and get more out of it, especially since I’d had over a year to rest my vocal cords.”
My stand-outs were “Scraps Vignette” a fun instrumental showing off Joanne’s guitar skills, “Let Me Down Easy” for some great vocals, “If That Ain’t a Reason,” “Two Time My Lovin‘” and the brass and backing instrumentation on “Keep On Lovin’ Me” was mind-blowing. It was hard to select favorites!
Rock at Night says: “We can’t tell you how much we love this album! These songs are recreated and made new again and every song is exceptional. This album is certainly a tribute to the songwriters and original artists that played these songs as they were truly creating an American genre at that time! Joanne has re-imagined these songs and Joe helped her make them into a “wall of sound!” All blues, blues rock and jazzy honky-tonk–this music the way it is meant to be played. The production with the horns, keys and backing instruments and vocals was stellar. And Joanne’s guitar playing is super clean and intricate–she has always been a technical player, but her vocals were exceptional on this recording; on the lower register, husky, smoky, expressive and just made for these songs. Bravo!“
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