Releasing your sixth studio album right at the start of a UK tour may seem a little cavalier, especially given the inevitable lack of audience familiarity with new material, even though Sony have kindly uploaded most tracks via YouTube. ‘Reckless Heart’ is something of a landmark for Joanne Shaw Taylor and the Sony labelling – after years of “independence” – marks an arrival of sorts.
Since her album debut a decade ago Joanne has honed her skill-set: stage and song-craft, guitar playing and especially vocals and not least influenced by her prolonged stateside sojurn. What it does demonstrate is that – for many artists – there is no quick fix for ascendancy in a fast-food mentality consumer-driven music business and much like Joe Bonamassa she has achieved her current position through sustained hard toil and graft.
The past couple of albums have also shown a willingness to break out from the blues rock template she started with when she was described as “the new face of the blues”. It’s a path taken more recently by her contemporaries of either gender – witness Erja Lyytinen, Ana Popovic or King King and even Eric Gales. ‘Reckless Heart’ is, though, less rocky than 2016′s Wild and Joanne showcased half of the new album tonight.
We last saw her supporting Foreigner and, before that, a support to Robin Trower emphasised her talent – the perfect complement to a time-served guitar hero.
Back in 2009 – and the dawn of her career – our reviewer Pete Whalley noted her mature, earthy delivery “But the real shock horror revelation is that Joanne Shaw Taylor is a Brummie lass in her early twenties.”
When reviewing her album Never Say Never in 2012, I opined: “…she does need some more, dare I say, commercial tracks to round out what is essentially a fully-formed approach from one of our best blues rockers.”
If there is one criticism of this show it was pacing, it never really gathered any momentum. The positioning of ‘No Reason To Stay’ in between two slower blues numbers – ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘Time Has Come’ - emphasised this. But ‘No Reason To Stay’ also emphasised that JST is capable of ear candy and the “commercial” – it was definitely a set highlight.
If this gig showed Joanne Shaw Taylor staying close to her blues roots there’s a definite feeling that she could easily entice a wider demographic than the predominately male audience of a certain age present tonight.
With sterling support from her band, not least go-t0 blues rock keyboard player Bob Fridzema, Joanne Shaw Taylor demonstrated that her latest clutch of songs and main label deal could well be the springboard to wider notoriety. Both hard earned and well deserved.
Earlier Northern Ireland’s Blackwater Conspiracy received a warm welcome from the Manchester crowd, the more significant as it was St.Patrick’s Day. Their brand of unreconstituted southern rock was competent if a little uninspiring. They ended with the standout song from their debut album – ‘Hanging Tree’ – a good tune but merely underlining that there are others such as Doomsday Outlaw competing in this space and with arguably a more refreshing take.
Review and photos by David Randall
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