Monday, October 31, 2022

Joanne Shaw Taylor - Nobody's Fool

Hook!  Hook!  Hook!
Chorus!  Chorus!  Chorus!
Hit!  Hit!  Hit!
I can imagine co-producers Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith sitting down at the end of a day’s work on Nobody’s Fool and rubbing their hands with glee at a job well done.  If Joanne Shaw Taylor’s core audience to date has been blues-rockers and guitar nuts, then this album has the potential to garner a wider variety of enthusiastic listeners.
How so?  Because this is an autumn release that’ll help you cling on to summer with its sunny-side-up soul/pop confections, that’s how.  But fear not, six-string fans, there are still lots of tasty guitar breaks to slake your thirst.
The tone is set by the title track.  If Johnnie Walker were to play 'Nobody's Fool' during his Sounds of the
Joanne Shaw Taylor - happy days are here again!
Pic by Kit Wood
 radio show, you’d happily accept it was a hit from back then and just get in the groove as it chugs merrily along – and ponder just how much of a nod that sweet guitar intro gives to ‘My Sweet Lord’.
The following ‘Bad Blood’ picks up the baton perfectly with its low-twanging Hispanic guitar figure, heralding a heaven-sent chorus that’s trotted out multiple times to maximise its impact.  The attention to detail is terrific, from the lazy, right-in-the-pocket beat to the placement of the female backing vocals, to the flurries of organ.  Mind you, they miss a trick with the tubular bell that gets chimed here and there, but not often enough for me.  More tubular bells, I say!
There’s a Sixties soul sound at work here, and there’s more of it with the post-Motown vibe of the romantic ‘Won’t Be Fooled Again’, Bonamassa getting in on the act by trading spot-on solos with Taylor, but all totally in service of the song.  ‘Runaway’ is rippling, blissed-out pop to reinforce the mood, with tripping drums, sun-dappled electric guitar, rubbery bass from Calvin Turner, and a rhythmic vocal nicely delivered by Taylor.
The steady, measured ‘Just No Getting Over You (Dream Cruise)’ is carried along by a bright’n’breezy guitar riff, some tick-tocking wah-wah guitar (or perhaps clavinet) in the background, and – hey, is that a cowbell?  Meanwhile ‘Then There’s You’, a bluesier but still catchy item, struts along on layers of low-slung guitar riffing – the sort of thing you can visualise a trio of backing singers dancing along to in sinuously choreographed fashion.
They take the load off twice, both times to good effect.  ‘Fade Away’ is a total change of pace to a spare, sad slowie led by Taylor’s wistful voice and Deron Johnson’s piano, and then garlanded by cello from Tina Guo that lends an extra air of melancholy.  It’s also a lovely tune.  ‘The Leaving Kind’ is like a mash-up of a quasi-torch song and epic ballad.  It’s built around some timeless-sounding acoustic guitar chording, and ultimately a sweeping guitar solo, emoting away big time before a dying fall.  That’s where the album should have ended, fellas, instead of tacking on the upbeat ‘New Love’ afterwards, good as it is with a Motown-ish feel again.
There’s also a cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Missionary Man’ undertaken with Dave Stewart himself.  With its synthy bass sound and squelchy guitar break it’s interesting, and different from the original, but possibly the least impactful thing on the album.  The following ‘Figure It Out’ though, featuring scratchy guest guitar from Carmen Vandenberg, hits the power pop bullseye dead centre, evoking both ‘Teenage Kicks’ and The Tourists’ take on ‘I Only Want To Be With You’.  Oh yeah, and it smacks you over the head with the chorus till you submit.
In days gone by I’ve had some reservations about Joanne Shaw Taylor’s singing, and she’s still prone to a curious vowel sound now and then.  But really, full credit to her for leading from the front and capturing the spirit of this enterprise, whether on the sun-drenched upbeat material or the elegiac ‘Fade Away’.  She and the whole ensemble make Nobody’s Fool sound effortless – and very, very easy to like.
Nobody’s Fool is out now on KTBA Records, and can be ordered here.

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