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Joanne Shaw Taylor

discusses her latest album ‘Almost Always Never’ with fellow Telecaster aficionado Pete Sargeant

On her last record cover,  Ms Taylor was looking away, to our left. This time she’s looking straight at us, but it’s not evident from her expression exactly what she’s thinking….time then, for your scribe to run some post-listen thoughts to the alluring gunslinger and vocalist

I’ve done me homework , Jo and listened through to the album a few times so I have some notes thereon…shall we do that first and pick up some other stuff in a minute ?

Sure Pete – go for it

Where are you right now ?

I’m at my parents’ house – they have a barn conversion in Leamington Spa ( lower part of England’s Midlands, international readers – PS)

Ha! I came out to Leamington Spa a while ago, to see Delain…Assemby Rooms ?

Oh yeah – I have played there a couple of times, it’s a really cool venue actually

With an Italian opposite !

Yes AND just next door they’re opening up a Fifties style diner

But usually you’re based now in Detroit aren’t you ?

Well yeah the band are based in Detroit but my home since I relocated start of this year is down in Texas

A quick detour – I saw a band called Vintage Trouble last week and they are West Coast but they SOUND like a Detroit outfit….

(Emphatically) They DO!!! I did see them on a TV appearance

They HAVE to have grown up on Detroit music..

Yeah ! the lead singer has Temptations style about him, for sure

It’s like one of the Temptations fronting The Small Faces

Would have been perfect for Berry Gordy to sign – yeah, they’re great….

But you also dig some friends of ours from there- The Detroit Cobras

I do, I do !!

Now this new album of yours that was sent  to me – just going through the tracks, now ‘Soul Station’ it’s got this insistent,  edgy feel to it..and your voice is shown off pretty well on this cut..there’s a tinge of Nikka Costa maybe here, but I don’t know whether you know her…

Yeah I do, I love her actually, I’m a huge fan, touch of Prince there..

(Laughs) Well back in the day I was on the fringe of what Prince was doing,  strangest  guy I ever met, we had a cat & mouse thing going on my writing…still not sure if I was cat or mouse….but this is a great opener and I love the counterpoint from the keyboard…what overdrive or fuzz were you using ?

I think we ended up using two…the producer (Mike McCarthy) and the studio had all kinds of gear and FX and guitar pedals so a lot of what I had brought went straight out of the window and we ended up experimenting a lot of the time..I think coming out of New York its was Death by Audio stuff  …probably a Fuzz One and an Octave Klang, we hooked the two up together through a Marshall stack

I thought it was a Ratt

We had to take into account what we wanted the solos to do, some were funkier than others and JJ the drummer had a hard sound for those, so we just chose what seemed to work, for each song

New York guys tend to use Electro Harmonix stuff. I have some first-issue effects they put out

Yeah they do – it was about getting something different really, away from the usual Tube Screamer sound

And it takes you a step or two away from the classic SRV tones, doesn’t it ?

Quite, I think I had got into a kind of rut – if I’m being honest..because I was comfortable (we’ve all been there, angel – PS) and it was easier to not change my ways

They do say – never write songs when you’re in love..

It was one of those things, with that track – I didn’t want to do what I normally do

I did pick up that, Jo – now ‘Beautifully Broken’, it’s got the skipping Hendrixy chords..and..you sound heartbroken, I have to say. And I do wonder whether you have been mistreated that badly by this horrible creatures called men, or is it poetic licence ?

(Laughs) I’m actually blissfully happy and have been for a while..so I don’t know where this angst comes from ….the track I wrote was really uptempo,  probably sounded more Hendrixy

The other thing is – you’re not here pushing  your voice at all, it’s more a narrative

Exactly Pete – and that was Mike’s idea, to slow it down and then it took on this Rolling Stonesish vibe

And the reedy Hammond as well

(Sighs) It’s kinda like something I haven’t done before

Can you see yourself using keys on live dates ?

(Pause) Yes. Were going to start using keyboards in shows

I’m already booked in to see the London show

Well you’ll see us with the keyboard player all being well

I didn’t know, I just thought I’d ask you

‘You Should Stay’ – it’s got a great determination to it. Unusual chords.  Seemed to me be a touch Dylanish

Really ? I am a big Dylan fan. It’s a kind of gamble, that song . I just wrote it for fun.  I have stuff I don’t ever intend to do myself

More of this later, Jo…it struck me as Dylan / John Prine-ish…..’Piece of the Sky’ has a Southern Rock leaning….but having listened to the album this far, it does occur – you don’t really want to be categorised , do you ?

No.  Now no-one’s ever picked up on that before. No I don’t, if anything  just want to be categorized as Joanne Shaw Taylor. And whatever I choose to do, under that umbrella. ( I explain my notion that I don’t like being in bands that are country, blues, rock, whatever in the act name – PS )No it’s not any fun to be squeezed into a box…like you, I just like music..sometimes blues, sometimes rock..but Blues Matters has always been very kind to me, given me attention though I’m no purist blues player

‘Army of One’ has that folk-rock sound, but it almost sounds like it’s going to be a protest song…

(Chuckles) Oh no I try to stay away from politics in my music

Why do you take that line ?

Just because – and this is a personal choice thing – it irks me when certain musicians decide to use the attention as a platform.. to preach to me about something, so I take religion and politics out of my music

End Bono now ??

(Sighs) – if only we could. I kind of think music –and it goes back to what you said about not being categorized – is there so people can listen to any genre of music, to get what they want out of it

And if you buy a Dylan album you’re listening to blues, country, folk, rock, protest..

Yes…I don’t think it’s a musician’s job to preach

At this point the album goes into ‘Jealousy’, an organ-soaked ballad .  Shoot me down if you like, but this is a key track is it not ?

That’s a surprise as we weren’t sure whether or not we were going to use it. I don’t do many covers. But it ended up sounding really good

I would have put a John Lennon delay on this…

Well we ended up  just using the live track, we all sat in one room for that. We tried to keep it simple, there

My own thought is : jealousy is the worst trait you can have. It’s acidic , it’s illogical

It causes worry and stress

There’s a video on YouTube for that song  just of someone shooting someone else..such an eerie vibe

(At this point I suggest a song that Joanne might consider doing a version of. As she could sing it much better than the original . But will she ? We’ll see – PS)

Now ‘Almost Always Never’ it’s very understated, I will ask you outright – did you write this for Bonnie Raitt ?

(Laughs) No, I actually wrote ‘Diamond & Dirt’ for Bonnie Raitt. I had it in my head as a big rock ballad, my producer told me to think otherwise, to make it more simple

It’s one of the most affecting moments  on this record

Thank you, it’s favourite with me, to be honest‘

Tied & Bound’ it’s got this great ascending chord intro, I’m a sucker for this stuff cos it’s what  play, a very barbed fuzz sound on this one

It’s a Les Paul with no effects whatsoever. The bass player was in Watchtower and lent me this Marshall gear

There’s a line in there I love : ‘Where persist and prevail collide’

That just came to me

It’s like a Glenn Hughes phrase….

( We discuss Black Country Communion, Joanne did some opening spots on their tour – PS. Glenn is a diamond bloke to meet, Jo and I would agree)

It’s got the best arrangement in the record, terrific guitar break

Yes I really liked it..

This album, it’s by turns laidback and relentless

When I was putting it together I did think it would be more uptempo than it has turned out

Hand In Love’ is the closest you’re getting here to jaunty..Mavis Staples could do this number

Yeah  like to try a Motown style song now and then

Your voice can do that very well and it must be tempting to do more in that vein..but something stops you ?

Hmm..It’s not great from a guitar player aspect ..? sometimes  I think  I’m just a singer and sometimes a guitar player

BB King doesn’t do too badly, but not at the same time

I guess I mean more in my song choices

Standing To Fall’ – is that an opener ?

But it goes into progrock for a while..not sure I could open with that !

‘Maybe Tomorrow’ – it’s a tread of a beat to that, isn’t it ?

Now that was another one where the demo version was really uptempo, then we just kinda changed it..has a Dr John /voodoo vibe now

It’s what I’d play to a stranger – from this record -  to put you over

Oh cool ! it’s a bit strange for me cos I had to re-write all the lyrics

The album ends with ‘Lose Myself’ , with that gentle tremeloed sound. Why did you want end the record on that mood ?

We’d decided that ‘Jealousy was going to have to go into the middle of the album, the way it turned out…it’s a love / end of a relationship theme so I thought I would finish on that reflective sound

Why do you look different in all your pictures ?

I don’t know..I photograph really weirdly…I just don’t look like myself in photographs

On ‘White Sugar’ I’m smiling….on “Diamonds’ I’m not

No on  ‘Diamonds’ you look as though you’re just working a song out and some bastard’s knocked on the door, disturbing you !

I was trying to look mardy !

Gotta ask you quickly about the Jubilee thing ( Joanne was asked by Annie Lennox to pay guitar on ‘There Must Be An Angel’ in the London show for the Queen’s Jubilee 60th whatever- in London – PS)

I’ve known Annie for a long while from working with Dave (Stewart –PS)and she rang me up to enlist me. It was a huge day off really….the day itself as you can imagine was chaos..there was  a dress rehearsal for us about a week before, at Buckingham Palace and it was all shut down for us..

I thought roots music was terribly under-represented…..I know it’s a mass-audience thing but..

( I would have replaced Cheryl Cole with Oli Brown for  a start ! – PS)

Yeah well I think you have to thank Gary Barlow for that..I didn’t see much of it to be frank..(but she did hang around to see Stevie Wonder – this lass has her priorities correct – PS)…my Mum was very pleased….

Pete Sargeant

Thanks Peter, Al, Joanne

The new ‘Almost Always Never’ album is released by RUF September 17th and JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR commences UK and European dates in October.   Details from the Ticket Hotline 0944 478 0898 – www.thegigcartel.com

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