Friday, November 16, 2012

Joanne Shaw Taylor -- "Almost Always Never"

Joanne Shaw Taylor's third cd, Almost Always Never, is the sound of a guitar player growing into a songwriter and a fine artist.  On her first two releases, Diamonds In The Dirt and White Sugar, she was a good and growing better guitar player, but her songwriting had not yet caught up with her fretwork. This time out, she writes all the songs, and she sings and plays guitar better than ever. Part of what makes this such a success is the presence of ace Mike McCarthy in the producer/recording/mixing chair--his past work with Patty Griffin and Spoon lend power to the proceedings. I'm not knocking the esteemed Jim Gaines, who produced Taylor's first two cds, but McCarthy does a real good job at the board here. And the backing musicians are equally terrific: David Garza on keyboards and mandolin, Billy White on bass and acoustic slide guitar, and J.J. Johnson on drums. They play consistently great, especially Garza's work on keyboards. Everything is tight in the pocket, and the band gives Taylor the opportunity to deliver her songs with power and passion on both vocals and guitar.

For years I have watched for good artists to make their third cd--by that point they begin to reach their potential. I remember Dire Straits' third album, Making Movies was a great leap forward from what they had done before--as much as I liked the earlier albums, Making Movies was to me the best album of 1980. Almost Always Never is like that too--from the first ripping notes of "Soul Station" you know this is a quantum leap forward, and there is no letdown--the entire cd delivers that on that promise. This time out, Taylor blows the roof off whatever you thought before of "that white girl guitarist from England."

Highlights include the already mentioned "Soul Station," the terrific title track, and two songs that deal honestly about love--"You Should Stay And I Should Go" and "Lose Myself To Loving You." "You Should Stay..." has some of that beautiful Mark Knopfler fingerpicking guitar sound, and "Lose Myself..." has some wonderful piano, the best singing and lyrics on the entire set, and it wraps up the album and leaves me wanting more.

This release is a terrific accomplishment. If she continues on this trajectory Taylor soon won't have to take a backseat to anybody. You can buy this cd at

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