Review: Joanne Shaw Taylor – Diamonds In The Dirt

Posted on: Tuesday, Dec 14, 2010


“Diamonds In The Dirt”
(Ruf Records – RUF 1164)

After a decade on the UK blues club and festival circuit, Joanne Shaw Taylor finally struck gold in 2008, with her major label debut on Ruf Records, “White Sugar” – like the new “Diamonds In The Dirt” produced by the Grammy-winning Jim Gaines, and recorded at his Bessie Blue Studios in rural Tennessee.

The singer / guitarist from The Black Country now calls Detroit home, and the last 12 months have seen countless crossings between the UK and the USA as part of a hectic touring schedule. This new release is a muscular affair, again recorded with the crack rhythm section of Dave Smith (bass) and Steve Potts (drums), the compact unit also featuring Rick Steff on keyboards.

Joanne Shaw Taylor says herself that this is an autobiographical collection of songs, all self-penned, and evidence of her growing maturity both as a writer and performer – which has resulted in “White Sugar” being nominated for Best New Artist Debut in the 2010 Blues Music Awards, and also her scooping Female Vocalist of the Year in the new British Blues Awards.

Proceedings start in a gentle fashion with some picked acoustic guitar on “Can’t Keep Living Like This”, and a breathy vocal, before the pace is taken up electrically and the band power in . . . an impressive opening show of intent! The following “Dead And Gone” rides on a funky groove from Shaw Taylor’s guitar, before heading into a distinctly rocky direction. “Same As It Ever Was” has a nice Memphis soul feel to it, driven by the ever-impressive rhythm section of Smith and Potts . . . two of Jim Gaines most trusted musicians.

“Jump That Train” has a driving intensity, very reminiscent of British favourites The Hoax at their best, with the heat kept on with the rocking “Who Do You Love”, and plenty of guitar fireworks present, with a biting, blistering solo. The title cut, “Diamonds In The Dirt” is a gentle, strutting affair, with another breathy vocal . . . and a standout here, dipping into a soulful vibe again.

Elsewhere, “Let It Burn” is a sturdy blues-rocker, and “World On Fire” grooves nicely, with one of the best vocals on the album. The closing, “The World And It’s Way” is a lovely track, a gorgeous ballad . . . and as previously mentioned shows how her writing has come on over the course of her two albums on Ruf Records. Some sweet guitar is underpinned by Rick Steff’s keyboards, and a nice contrast to the rockier tunes.


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