Born in Birmingham, England and currently based in Detroit, the phenomenal young blues artist Joanne Shaw Taylor brought what the late Albert King liked to call “blues power” to the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy on Thursday night. Just in her mid-twenties, Taylor wowed the crowd, many of them new to her, with two sets of gritty originals from her acclaimed Ruf Records offerings, “White Sugar” (2009) and “Diamonds in the Dirt” (2010), as well as a trio of inspired covers.
Backed by a talented rhythm section, the vivacious Taylor strapped on her blonde Telecaster and let it rip on an instrumental that revealed the influences of Dave Gonzalez and Freddy King, before going into her own “Going Home,” “Time Has Come” and “Let It Burn,” the latter demonstrating her ability to play and sing with both power and finesse. A spirited take on Vaughan’s 1983 classic “Rude Mood” left a smile on everyone’s face, including Taylor’s. Later, a bold take on Jimi Hendrix’s 9/8 waltz “Manic Depression” demonstrated the great rapport Taylor has with drummer Layla Hall and bassist Paul Lamb.
The second set highlighted Taylor’s considerable vocal talents. Angela Strehli and Ann Peebles came to mind as influences, especially in the lower registers she favored for “Watch ’em Burn,” the Delta-influenced “Dead and Gone” and the sweltering ballad “Blackest Day.” Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down” – made famous by Freddie King and Jeff Beck – was a virtuoso performance by the trio, especially for Hall, who abandoned her drum sticks in mid-solo and pounded the skins conga-style before taking it home.
The encore of “Can’t Keep Living Like This” epitomized the triple-threat that Taylor is: a talented singer-songwriter, who just happened to play some of the most exciting blues guitar (Note: she did so with no fancy gadgets and rarely employed a pick – the cathartic array of tones and sounds was purely in her hands!) heard around Nippertown in a long time.
Be sure to catch Taylor the next time. She is something extraordinary.
Review by Fred Rudofsky