By David O’Neill

Artwork for Heavy Soul by Joanne Shaw TaylorSince being discovered by Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) at age 16, this is album number nine in the past 15 years from Joanne Shaw Taylor. There have been some departures to more commercial albums that drew criticism from some quarters in the past. However, this is a considered return to her blues/roots music that has brought her considerable success in that genre.

Well known as an excellent guitarist and singer/songwriter, my preference is definitely this style of music. The first single from the album garnered praise from several quarters and I actually was very happy with it.  For music and the artist to connect with an audience blues has always been known to connect on an emotional level. Of course, successfully written blues songs often come from the artists personal experiences and this is what connects with the listener.

The opening track, ‘Sweet Li’l Lies’ appears to come from an area where the artist appears to be on the point of a relationship breakdown. Lyrically very well written, there is also a great blues backdrop and guitar playing that has a bit of a King King sound to the guitar tone. Her vocals are also getting the gruff, rustic, apparently smoke exposed edge that has the definitive blues edginess to it.

The performance of Joan Armatrading’s ‘All The Way From America’ is so keenly aligned to the original track that it was so easy to just sing along, but it does have that edge in her voice. ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Drowning In A Sea Of Love’ firmly hammer the blues/roots nail into the  previous album critiques’ virtual coffins. The husk in her vocal is just everything you could want from a female blues singer, add into that the sublime guitar playing  and its just another addition to her songwriting finesse.

The opening riff on ‘A Good Goodbye’ is as cool as it gets, the tone is just superb, and much of the beauty in it is in the gaps between the notes played as much as it is in the notes themselves. The title track, ‘Heavy Soul’, is a real blues guitar fest, the holding riff continues throughout until there is a sublime solo at the breakdown, this is JST at her best, instrumentally and vocally.

Back to the more positive emotionality of the album in what appears to be the discovery of a new love in ‘Wild Love’; this is possibly my favourite track on the album because of the positive vibe that oozes from her voice and guitar playing. It is going to go onto a regular playlist of mine, (not that the album hasn’t been played multiple times in the past two weeks.

‘Someone Like You’ was penned by Van Morrison and this continues the voyage of discovery of a new relationship. It has always been one of the VM tracks that appears on my radar occasionally, so this is just going to add an alternative version. ‘Devil In Me’ is a much more upbeat track that is really going to get you nodding your head and tapping your feet in unison. A dirtier guitar tone adds to the feel of the track.

The final track, ‘Change Of Heart’ leaves you with a positive outlook on the album in an upbeat vocal/guitar performance that is obviously written from a much more positive mindset and this is also reflected in the guitar solo at the breakdown.

Overall, this is a fabulous album and its going to get a serious hammering throughout the summer season in my earphones/car stereo, anywhere I need to react and end with a positive mindset.

  • Heavy Soul‘ is released today (Friday 7 June).

Joanne Shaw Taylor 2024 tour poster

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