Blues rockers Walter Trout, John Mayall together again on Black Friday Record Store Day vinyl exclusive

We don’t usually pay a whole lot of attention to Black Friday deals, but here’s one that we thought might actually be worth standing in line for: a special edition, double A-side 7-inch vinyl record featuring tunes from the legendary John Mayall and his former Bluesbreakers band member Walter Trout.

Mayall_Trout_BFRSD (2)A Black Friday Record Store Day exclusive, the record offers a track off each of the artists’ latest albums. While neither of the songs is exactly what you might consider uplifting in their lyrics – Trout’s hard-driving “Willie” (The Blues Came Callin’) was inspired by “the many times I have been ripped off by many different people in the music business in my past…it is about the experience of trusting somebody to handle your business affairs, and then having them steal from you and exploit their position,” while Mayall’s “World Gone Crazy” (A Special Life) is perhaps one of the smoothest-sounding political statements you’ve ever heard, addressing such weighty topics as religious fighting, irresponsible politicians, and other chaos in the world today – musically, the songs are strong ones, particularly on vinyl. Even with Mayall and Trout having collaborated as recently as Trout’s latest album (on which Mayall played keyboards on two tracks), it’s great to see these two masters paired in such a way, making this a terrific gift for the blues-rock and/or vinyl collector in your life. If, that is, you’re fortunate enough to get your hands on one; with only 1,000 copies having been pressed and shipped to retailers, you may want to make your local record store one of the first stops along your Black Friday adventures.

And while you’re there (and since it’s officially the start of Christmas shopping season), you might as well also pick up a copy of the Bessie Smith exclusive release from Legacy Records. This one features the Empress of the Blues singing “At The Christmas Ball” with a B-side of “Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town” on a holiday-appropriate red 7-inch 45 RPM vinyl.

Happy shopping to you!

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TBT (Throwback Thanksgiving) Blues Lyrics of the Week: Thank You for Giving Me the Blues

Rockwell_Thanksgiving (250x250)

Thanksgiving Day Blues, Norman Rockwell (1942)

One of the albums we’ve been meaning to tell you about for a while is Mississippi bluesman Grady Champion‘s latest release Bootleg Whiskey (Malaco Records), and one of these days, we promise we’ll still make that happen. But in the meantime, we hope you don’t mind us throwing back to a 2012 post in which we visited a tune from Champion’s Dreamin’ CD that’s particularly pertinent to this week’s U.S. holiday, a little something called “Thank You for Giving Me the Blues“.

And because it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without at least one extra helping, here are a few lyrics from a similar track from Mighty Mo Rodgers, “Thank You Mississippi” from Mo’s new Mud ‘n Blood CD (DixieFrog Records):

“I came to Mississippi,
lookin’ for the truth (yes I did).
And what I found now
was them Mississippi blues (that gets you through).
I wanna’ thank you Mississippi
for giving me the blues (uh-huh),
I wanna’ thank you Mississippi
and I got things to do (like praise my blues).

From pickin’ cotton
to pickin’ blues –
it ain’t no difference,
we all pay dues.
Can’t deny,
blues don’t lie,
and Mississippi blues will
make you high.
I wanna’ thank you, Mississippi,
for giving me the blues.
We’ve all got places to go now
and I’ve got things to do (play my blues, yeah).

Thank you Mississippi, thank you Mississippi,
Thank you Mississippi, thank you Mississippi,
for giving me the blues”

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a holiday filled with all the things for which you’re grateful.

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Blues Lyrics of the Week: I Want to Get Married

Here’s one we heard covered recently on the latest project from the reunited UK blues-rock outfit The Hoax, a tribute album to the great B.B. King called Recession Blues.

Also recorded by Texas bluesman W.C. Clark on his 1994 album Heart of Gold, this may not exactly be King’s most-covered song through the years but it sure is a good one, complete with its lyrics about rejected advances and failed relationships.

And if you get a chance, be sure to check out this recent edition of British blues harmonica player Paul JonesRhythm & Blues show on BBC Radio 2 highlighting some of the various performances from Bluesfest 2014, featuring a few songs from The Hoax that include a downright killer cover of King’s “How Blue Can You Get”.

“I want to get married,
but no woman will hear my plea.
Yes, I want to get married,
but no woman will hear my plea.
Yes, it does seem somehow
I can’t get one to walk down the aisle with me.

Well, I’ve only been in love
but three times in my life.
Yeah, the first, I couldn’t satisfy,
but I’ve only been in love three times in my life.
Yes, the second one was a juice-head
and the third was another man’s wife.”
– “I Want to Get Married”, Riley B. King and Joe Josea (Joe Bihari)

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Previously unreleased studio album captures magic of late blues guitarist/singer Sean Costello

As you might imagine, there are plenty of blues guitarists we’d love to go back and see live if we had the time machine to do so, including the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, T-Bone Walker, Luther Allison, Johnny Copeland, and Freddie and Albert King, to name just a few. For many of these artists, that would mean having to go back several decades to catch them, but there’s at least one other blues slinger worth adding to this list who’s been gone less than a decade, in the late Atlanta musician Sean Costello.

Costello, you may remember, was a rising star who died of an accidental drug overdose in April 2008 on the eve of his 29th birthday, after which it became public that Sean had battled bipolar disorder. Back in September, we told you about a benefit show that was taking place in Chicago for the fund that was established in Sean’s name to help in research, outreach and treatment efforts for bipolar disorder. You can find the video from that event – featuring a terrific line-up of musicians that included Billy Boy Arnold, Tom Holland & the Shuffle Kings, Long Tall Deb, Johnny Iguana, Richard Rosenblatt, Nico Wayne Toussaint, Dave Herrero, and Felix Reyes, among others – on

Sean-Costello-Magic-Shop (220x220)The benefit also served as a CD release party for an album of previously unreleased material from Costello entitled In The Magic Shop (VizzTone), recorded back in the fall of 2005 at Grammy Award-winning producer Steve Rosenthal’s New York City studio The Magic Shop. The album wouldn’t be mixed until almost nine years later – in the spring of this year – but we think you’ll agree it was well worth the wait, capturing the Philadelphia-born Costello working effortlessly through a mix of soft ballads such as the jazzy “Trust in Me” with its passionate, sometimes breathy, soul-filled vocals to a country-flavored take on Rod Stewart’s “You Wear It Well” featuring Jimi Zhivago on the 12-string National guitar to the John Mellencamp/Americana feel of the gritty, harder-rocking “Feel Like I Ain’t Got a Home”.

Though not strictly a blues album, blues was of course at the center of much of what Costello did, so there are plenty of blues notes and lyrics to be heard. That includes the album’s opening number, a moaning- and groaning-filled cover of the B.B. King classic “It’s My Own Fault” that offers a whole lot of bite well before Costello’s gritty vocals ever even kick in (more than three-quarters of the way through) with the song’s sole verse, buoyed further by some terrific tickling of the ivories from Paul Linden.

That’s followed by the breezy R&B of “Can’t Let Go”, as well as a lightly rocking “Hard Luck Woman” that features Linden on both harmonica and keyboards, while Ray Hangen and Melvin Zachery hold down the rhythm on drums and bass, respectively. A cover of Fenton Robinson’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is” offers some nice deep grooves, before Costello unleashes a catchy, uptempo take on Bobby Womack’s “Check It Out” with Linden on vibraphone, along with a creeping, Beatles-esque “Told Me a Lie” that’s set to an intriguing bassline.

“I Went Wrong” is a softer tune with an R&B/soul feel, while the deep-voiced, funky “Make a Move” is a perfect example within one song of what you’ll hear from Costello more broadly on the project with its mix of troubled and inspiring lyrics such as “we all have troubles on our mind” and “you’ve got love in your heart, and you’ve got music in your soul” and “now’s the time to go ahead and make a move”, in addition to being one of several tracks to include some rich background vocals. The album closes on a slow, soulful “Fool’s Paradise” (Sam Cooke) that finds Linden on both Wurlitzer and Hammond B3, with Costello heard asking “Pretty good, huh?” at the song’s end.

But “pretty good” is a bit of an understatement, as In The Magic Shop is another superb display of Costello’s talents not only as a guitarist but also as a singer and songwriter, blending elements of many of the great blues guitarists named at the start of this post. All profits from the CD benefit the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research, giving yet another fine reason to, as Sean sings here, “just check it out”.

And we’re pretty sure that, in doing so, Costello could very well end up on your time machine list as well.

Here’s Sean doing “Hard Luck Woman” – one of several songs here that also appeared (albeit in slightly different versions) on his 2008 album We Can Get Together, so you’d better check that one out too while you’re at it – at a New York show in 2006:

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Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater gets Soul Funky on first live album in quarter of a century

We weren’t able to make it to the recent CD release party for Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater‘s new album Soul Funky at Buddy Guy’s Legends, nor have we yet had the chance to check out the video from the show on but we have to imagine the night was much like the album itself: a live, rollicking good time that nicely captures the still-impressive energy and abilities of the 79-year-old guitarist and singer, joined by such friends as fellow Chicago guitar slinger Ronnie Baker Brooks, harmonica player Billy Branch, and keyboardist Johnny Iguana (with Big Head Todd & the Monsters’ Todd Park Mohr also making an appearance at the CD release party).

Eddy-The-Chief-Clearwater-Soul-Funky (220x220)Recorded this past January at Evanston, Illinois’ SPACE, Soul Funky (on Clearwater’s own Cleartone Music label) is the first live album for Clearwater since his 1990 A Real Good Time, which, if it weren’t already taken, would also have been a pretty appropriate title for this remarkably entertaining and diverse set from the cousin of the late Chicago harmonica player Carey Bell. It all kicks off with a funky, pulsing “They Call Me The Chief” – one of the most rocking intros you may ever hear – penned by Ronnie Baker Brooks, who not only produced the West Side Strut album on which the song originally appeared but also joins Clearwater as a special guest on this set, adding some terrific licks throughout. That includes, for example, on a few other West Side Strut tracks that follow in an again-funky “Hypnotized” and the swinging, Chuck Berry-style number “Too Old to Get Married” (also written by Baker Brooks), on which Clearwater proves to still be plenty capable of rocking out, with a punchline to the chorus of “too young to be buried” and other lyrics that include “some people might say that I’m too old, I saw the blues convert to rock & roll” and “I’ve gotta’ get my groove on and party all night”.

“Good Times are Coming” is a nice mid-tempo rocker that finds the band sounding great, including some sweet piano from Johnny Iguana and harmonica from Shoji Naito (who also plays guitar and bass for the band), followed by a 13-minute medley that starts on Clearwater’s creeping “Came Up the Hard Way” featuring some particularly passionate vocals from The Chief, then picks up the pace a bit with Baker Brooks testifying both on guitar and vocals on his own “Root to the Fruit” before returning to “Hard Way”.

From there, the band moves to the slick Chicago shuffle of “Cool Blues Walk”, including some impressive organ playing from Iguana, with a few other superb uptempo tunes still to come in the romping “Find You a Job” (off Clearwater’s 1980 breakthrough The Chief) and the breezy “A Good Leavin’ Alone” that sees “Chicago’s finest” Billy Branch joining on harmonica just as he did for the song’s earlier recording on West Side Strut.

That’s balanced with a slow, country interpretation of B.B. King’s “Please Accept My Love” and groove-filled, Magic Sam-style creeper in “Lonesome Town”, while the largely instrumental title track (the only lyrics of which are a repeating of the song’s title) easily lives up to its name.

Although born in Mississippi, Clearwater has spent most of his life in Chicago (having migrated there at 15 years old), a fact particularly evident on songs like “A Good Leavin’ Alone”, “Find You a Job”, and “Cool Blues Walk”. Clearwater’s vocals remain remarkably strong and diverse for his 79 years, ranging from a deep, throaty delivery on songs such as “Please Accept My Love” and “Lonesome Town” to the Muddy Waters-like, in-your-face bravado of “A Good Leavin’ Alone” and smooth sprightliness of tunes such as “Too Old to Get Married” and “Soul Funky”, reminding us that no list of living Chicago blues masters is complete without Clearwater’s name on it.

Here’s a video of Clearwater and the band, including Ronnie Baker Brooks and Johnny Iguana, doing “Too Old to Get Married” during the SPACE show at which Soul Funky was recorded:

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Nearly twenty years after debut recording, Alvin Youngblood Hart still has Helluva Way of setting self apart

Okay, so Alvin Youngblood Hart may not exactly be the first name that jumps to mind when you’re talking bluesmen who are also quite capable of rocking out. The California singer and multi-instrumentalist has been entertaining and delighting music fans for decades now, largely through such folk/country blues-style offerings as “Gallows Pole”, “How Long Before I Change My Clothes”, “Will I Ever Get Back Home”, and “Mama Don’t Allow”, to name just a few of our personal favorites, and collaborations with the likes of Guy Davis and Corey Harris (True Blues), Jimbo Mathus and Luther Dickinson (South Memphis String Band), and fellow Bay area musicians Paul Pena and Big Bones.

Hart at Carnegie Lecture Hall, Pittsburgh, January 2014

Hart at Carnegie Lecture Hall, Pittsburgh, January 2014

A few may of course be aware of Hart’s sometimes rock trio called Muscle Theory, and those who have or remember Hart’s 2005 album Motivational Speaker will also already have experienced a nice sampling of Hart’s more rocking tendencies, including, for example, the shuffling, Hill Country-style reprise of Hart’s earlier “Big Mama’s Door”, the terrifically funky title track, and a Hendrix-like “Stomp Dance” that help get the album off to a strong start, not to mention later tunes such as the gritty, in-your-face numbers “My World is Round” and “Shoot Me a Grin”, a blistering “Necessary Roughness (A Power Move)”, and the groovy instrumental bonus track “Shootout on I-55″. Some who are only familiar with the acoustic blues side of Hart’s repertoire might be surprised to learn that Motivational Speaker is Hart’s favorite album from his own catalog, although the more observant will note that there’s plenty of evidence of that on Hart’s Twitter account, where his handle is @MotivSpkr6L6 and his tagline is “#RockandRoll is in a critical condition”, one of the lines from the album’s title track.

Alvin_Youngblood_Hart_Helluva_Way (220x220)That said, it’s been a long time since Hart rock and rolled, at least in the studio, which makes his new debut single on Fat Possum Records’ Big Legal Mess label a rather welcome and intriguing development, as well as a nice reminder of just what Hart can do when he lets his dreadlocks down. Available only on 45 r.p.m. vinyl, the single was recorded in Mississippi with Hart joined by his rhythm section of drummer Rick Shelton and bassist Mark Stuart.

The A-side is a hard-driving punk-flavored number entitled “Helluva Way (for a Man to Make a Livin’)” that recounts some of Hart’s experiences on the road and features a stinging guitar solo midstream. That’s backed with a quieter, creeping “Watchin’ Brian Jones” that also incorporates some harmonica and is chock full of Memphis grit.

“For me, this 45 is just another piece of the puzzle,” explains Hart in the press release announcing the single. “My family goes back generations in Mississippi, so the blues is in my DNA, but when I was in high school I listened to everything and absorbed it, and now it’s a part of what I do. I keep playing and hitting the road, hoping to defy the stereotypes that were set up for me.”

“I really hate genres,” continues Hart. “It’s become such a stifling thing, especially with blues… What I like to hear, and what I like to play, is just good music.”

And Hart’s new single is precisely that, proving that the 51-year-old musician still has what it takes to compete with modern blues-based rockers like the Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr. The only bad news here is that the record isn’t slated for release until the second week of November but, in the meantime, here’s a nice taste of “Helluva Way” as performed by Hart’s Muscle Theory in the fall of 2012.

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Blues Lyrics of the Week: Never Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice

Regardless of whether it applies to an affair of the heart, state, or some other variety, here’s a helpful bit of wisdom to bear in mind any time an old “friend” comes buzzing back around.

Unfortunately for us all, this was one of only six tracks ever recorded by Lousiana blues guitarist and singer Richard “Rabbit” Brown, all back in March of 1927, including such other gems as “I’m Not Jealous”, “Sinking of the Titanic”, and “James Alley Blues”, the latter of which has since been covered by the likes of Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks, and David Johansen, among others.

“They sez’ at first, you know, you don’t succeed,
you must always try again.
Oh, but since I took my old girl back,
she almost drove me to the pen.
No matter what I would do or say,
never goes my way.
And I got so disgusted,
believe me I was supposed to say,
I’ll never let the same bee that stung me –
she’ll never sting me twice.
That’s if you want to be happy,
keep up in this kind of life.

When you’re out upon your honeymoon,
and your trouble and your sorrows go in a balloon,
go out with the girls but you must remember your wife –
never let the same bee that stung you, sting you twice.”
– “Never Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice”, Richard “Rabbit” Brown

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Sugar Ray Norcia, Curtis Salgado, and Dave Maxwell among All-Stars playing Open Mic at the Knick

Tucked away in the town of Westerly on the southwest border of Rhode Island, the Knickerbocker Cafe has enjoyed a rich blues history, having served as the site of a regular gig from the hometown Roomful of Blues for a decade and a half in addition to hosting such national artists as Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Big Joe Turner, and Eddie Cleanhead Vinson through the years. In 1980, harp giant Big Walter Horton shared the club’s stage with guitarist Ronnie Earl (who was still going by his given name of Ronnie Horvath), fellow harmonica player and vocalist Sugar Ray Norcia, and other members of Norcia’s band the Bluetones in a performance immortalized on JSP Records’ recently re-released Live at the Knickerbocker, believed by some to be the last recording of Horton before his death the following year.

KnickerbockerAStars (220x200)If all that wasn’t enough to put the Knickerbocker on the map, then a new release celebrating the spirit of the club – as well as quite a few of the voices and musical talents that have played there over the years – surely is. Entitled Open Mic at the Knick (JP Cadillac Records), the recording asembles a stellar lineup of musicians and singers from across New England and around the U.S., collectively dubbed The Knickerbocker All-Stars.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the album has a deep Roomful of Blues flavor, featuring a full horn section that happens to include longtime Roomful alto and tenor sax player Rich Lataille as well as a number of former Roomful personnel in the likes of band co-founder and Westerly native Al Copley on piano and Fran Christina (later of the Fabulous Thunderbirds) on drums, with one-time vocalists/harmonica players Curtis Salgado and Sugar Ray Norcia also each making appearances. Add to that the talents of frequent Roomful guest and native Rhode Islander Johnny Nicholas, Texas blues belters Malford Milligan (Storyville) and Willie Laws, renowned keyboardist David Maxwell, and the members of local blues band Ricky King Russell and the Cadillac Horns, and what you’ve got is a pretty fine-sounding outfit that’s every bit deserving of their “All-Stars” designation, as they prove through this baker’s dozen of blues, R&B, and soul covers.

Sugar Ray Norcia, Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, Feb. 2014

Sugar Ray Norcia, Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, Feb. 2014

It all kicks off with a swinging “You Upset Me Baby” (B.B. King) that features some lively horns, rollicking keys from Copley, and impressive guitar from Russell in addition to strong vocals from Norcia, just the type of song that captures Sugar Ray at his finest. Things stay swinging as Milligan takes the mic for a slick and solid take on Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Turn on Your Love Light” before Laws slows it down with a smooth, soulful “Mother-in-Law Blues”.

Milligan takes a grittier approach on vocals his second time around, returning for the funky, horn-soaked “Love Disease”, then handing things off to Nicholas for tough but patient deliveries of both “Jelly Jelly” – featuring some great piano fills and mournful horns to nicely match the mood of such lyrics as “it’s a downright rotten, rotten, rotten, rotten, baby, lowdown dirty shame/ the way you been treatin’ me baby, and I know I’m not all to blame” and “jelly roll killed my papa, and caused my mother to steady cry” – and then the Lowell Fulson classic “Reconsider Baby”.

Curtis Salgado, Pittsburgh, Aug. 2012

Curtis Salgado, Pittsburgh, Aug. 2012

Norcia returns to the mic for a boogie-woogeying “It’s Later Than You Think”, before fellow former Roomful vocalist Salgado steps up and knocks one out of the park with a rousing “Ain’t That Lovin’ You” that serves as one of the finest examples of the band’s abilities, with Salgado’s powerful vocals and some punchy horns helping to build to an impressive crescendo and then abruptly giving way to a quiet, jazzy sway.

Laws provides some Salgado-like soulfulness on Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years”, also including a terrific guitar solo from Russell, with deep-voiced J.P. Sheerar taking the lead on a creeping, horns- and keys-filled version of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Somebody’s Got to Go”. Bostonian Brian Templeton‘s full-out vocals on the stinging “I’m Tore Down” that follows could easily be mistaken for those of the Phantom Blues Band’s Mike Finnigan, but that’s just really one of many good reasons to check out this track, along with its exquisite horn stops and superb guitar.

David Maxwell, Project Blues Review, Aug. 2014

David Maxwell, Project Blues Review, Aug. 2014

Nicholas is back for one more, a growling, Duke Robillard-style take on Eddie Jones’ “Along About Midnight”, before the band lets loose with a rocking “Going Down”, a tune on which Fran Christina (who shares drumming duties in the All-Stars with his brother Bob) played with Freddie King during the blues guitarist’s appearance at the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival. Recalling Boston musician David Maxwell as the piano player on that live set, the band invited Maxwell to also join them on their recording of the song, making for both a nice historical touch as well as some fine listening.

We can’t say enough good things about Open Mic at the Knick, a remarkably strong, diverse, and solid offering from what might be considered the east coast’s equivalent to the California-based blues supergroup The Mannish Boys. The liner notes describe the album as “a composite of some of the best blues, R&B and jump blues songs ever recorded” but here’s hoping the All-Stars can come up with more of the same for at least one or two follow-up recordings.

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Blues Lyrics of the Week: Keep on Playin’ the Blues

It’s been just over two and a half years now since blues guitarist, harmonica player, and singer Louisiana Red passed away, but our friends at Wolf Records are helping to ensure that Red’s legacy continues to live on with The Sky is Crying, a new release of live material compiled from shows Red performed throughout Greece during the decade prior to his death.

Louisiana_Red_Sky_is_CryingIn addition to covers of classic blues tunes such as the Elmore James title track, Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer” and “What is That She Got”, the standard “Early in the Morning”, and Willie Dixon’s “Same Thing”, the album also includes plenty of great original tracks, from the solo “Too Poor to Die” with its quiet “Hoochie Coochie Man”-style riffs on electric guitar to the shuffling closer “I Done Woke Up” that finds Red joined by the Backbone Blues Band as well as Johnny Nicholas on piano as Red wails away on Mississippi saxophone in homage to harp mentors Big Walter Horton and Little Walter, and this track, a slow country blues number that features some fine playing from Red alongside fellow National steel guitarists Bob Brozman and George Pilali, making these lyrics just one of the factors that help to establish this song as such a gem.

“When you’re lonely,
Lord, and blue –
and you ain’t got nobody
care about you –
you just keep on playin’,
keep on playin’ the blues.

You know sometimes,
I get to thinkin’,
thinkin’ ’bout how
trouble’s been
And I grab my old National steel and I
start to playin’ the blues again…

Sometime I get so,
Bob, I get so disgusted,
how them record companies
ripped me off.
That’s when I got to go get that old
1926 National
and play the blues once more.”
– “Keep on Playin’ the Blues”, Louisiana Red

Related posts:
Blues Lyrics of the Week: Pittsburgh Blues
Louisiana Red gets Memphis Mojo working on latest CD
Blues Lyrics of the Week: September 11th Blues
Louisiana’s Pittsburgh roots

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Blues-rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor reveals The Dirty Truth on indie label debut

JST_The_Dirty_Truth (220x220)After three acclaimed studio albums as well as last fall’s live Songs from the Road CD/DVD set – all on the German Ruf Records label – UK-born, now U.S.-based, blues-rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor has stepped out on her own with a new release on her independent Axehouse Music label.

Truth be told, there really isn’t a whole lot drastically different or new about the sound of this one, entitled The Dirty Truth, from what we’ve heard from Taylor before. Which isn’t a bad thing in any sense, with Taylor delivering the same solid mix of smoky vocals, tight guitar and no-nonsense gusto here as we’ve grown to admire from her through the past five years.

Reuniting Taylor with debut (White Sugar) and sophomore (Diamonds in the Dirt) album producer Jim Gaines, one of the goals of the new album was to try to revisit the same sound and feeling that the pair captured on that 2009 debut. In the end, The Dirty Truth marks another stellar outing for the singer/guitarist both musically and vocally, featuring plenty of catchy grooves punctuated with some superb guitar solos.

Pittsburgh, June 2014

Pittsburgh, June 2014

The catchiest of those grooves can be heard on such songs as the album’s shuffling title track, a breezy “Fool in Love”, and the closing “Feels Like Home” with its Jimi Hendrix-style licks, originally recorded for White Sugar but ultimately shelved from that project in favor of the inclusion of a similar sounding “Kiss the Ground Goodbye”.

In between is an assortment of other great tracks ranging from simmering rockers like “Wicked Soul” and a “Shiver & Sigh” co-written with Kevin Bowe more than a decade ago to a driving, fuzz-filled blues shuffle in “Outlaw Angel” and the heavy riffs of “Struck Down” to the slow, delicate soul ballad “Tried, Tested and True”, one of several tunes buoyed by some rich organ.

Taylor continues to develop lyrically as well, as evidenced on such tracks as the gritty, Stevie Ray Vaughan-like opener “Mud, Honey” (“runnin’ around town waving that blood money/ your name is already mud, honey”) and slightly funky rocker “Wrecking Ball” (“‘cuz he tore up the script and blew up the walls, he came crashing in like a wrecking ball/ you know enough to know you never know, just how the future’s gonna’ go / but I cross my heart and I hope to die, that I never ever have to fall from the sky”).

As usual with Taylor, the end result is both interesting and charming – in her own gritty, blues-rocking kind of way – making The Dirty Truth a perfect appetizer to her upcoming two-week tour with special guest guitarist Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake) for our friends fortunate enough to be in Taylor’s native UK.

Related posts:
Joanne Shaw Taylor show in photos
Joanne Shaw Taylor brings songs from the road to Pittsburgh
Joanne Shaw Taylor lets it burn on Songs from the Road live CD/DVD set
With new Almost Always Never, Joanne Shaw Taylor almost never fails to delight
With Diamonds, another fine gem from Joanne Shaw Taylor

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