02 Academy 2, Islington, London, 22 September 2014

Joanne Shaw Taylor may be a consummate guitar playing rocking blues artist, but she constantly defies expectations with wide ranging material and a live show that always seeks to achieve more.

Tonight’s ‘secret’, invite-only album launch of ‘The Dirty Truth’ is no exception. She contents herself with showcasing 4 tracks from the album while dipping into her ever-growing back catalogue in a notably more restrained and soulful vein. She builds things up from the ground as her band offers her solid but unfussy support. Once locked into the groove she pushes things into different directions with a mix of contrasting solos and an array of guitar tones.Sometimes the contrasting notes come from a change of guitar, while at other times it’s her ability to express the feel of a song through her finger tips that makes her special. Her solos are the key to expressing the vision she wishes to convey.

The best moments come when she’s apparently lost in the moment on ‘Jump That Train’ and the show stopping finale of ‘Tied & Bound’, only to return to the arrangement with a knowing smile.Joanne sets the standard with the insistent rhythm of ‘Mud, Honey’ the lead track from the new album. She slips from fierce rhythm guitar to intricate solos and back again, to bridge the gap between hard driving rock and something with a little more depth. ‘Just Another Word’ is a brooding love song full of intricate rhythm patterns, while things really start to flow on the extended shuffle of ‘Watch ‘Em Burn’, full of chiming notes and more spontaneous soloing. Her cover of Frankie Miller’s ‘Jealousy’ wrenches the set back to a soulful vein and ‘Jump That Train’ has a funky undertow which she explores further on the cleaner toned workout of ‘Wrecking Ball.’

Things are cooking by the midway point of the set and she’s unfazed by an unexpected buzz from the speakers and the extraneous noise from the bar to solo sinuously on ‘Let It Burn’. She digs deep for a real soulful connection on the smoky Memphis style ballad ‘Tried, Tested & True’. The song benefits from the drummer bv’s, but is marred by annoying organ stabs that sound like high frequency telephone tones. Her husky vocals on the equally soulful groove of ‘You Should Stay, I Should Go’ draws us in, and the audience increasingly responds to her actual performance rather than simply her presence.She further reveals her touch and tone mastery on the slow blues ‘Time Has Come’ and cleverly shifts from a country intro to a bluesy stomp on the title track of the new album. She finishes with a flourish on the catchy descending hook of ‘Tied & Bound’ to illustrate just how far she’s come from her guitar driven rocking blues template to mature soulful introspection.

Tonight’s gig balances the two influences perfectly and sends the die-hard fans and competition winners home with a smile.

Review by Pete Feenstra

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