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Joanne Shaw Taylor back at the Robin in Bilston

Nine years on from making her debut at the old Robin R 'n' B club as a 15-year-old, Black Country-born rising blues-rock star Joanne Shaw Taylor returns to the Robin 2 in Bilston next week.

Joanne Shaw Taylor back at the Robin in Bilston

Nine years on from making her debut at the old Robin R 'n' B club as a 15-year-old, Black Country-born rising blues rock star Joanne Shaw Taylor returns to the Robin 2 in Bilston next week.

Joanne Shaw TaylorTaken to the old Robin week-in, week-out by her blues enthusiast father from when she was just 13, Wednesbury-born Joanne remembers "seeing everyone from John Hammond to a local guy, Ian Parker, and I don't know, AC/DC tribute bands, plenty of that sort of thing".

"If you saw a little blonde girl drinking Coke right at the front, that was me!" she laughs.

So to actually play the venue at such a tender age, "Well, I might as well have been playing the Royal Albert Hall to be honest".

Now with two critically acclaimed albums - White Sugar and Diamonds In The Dirt - under her belt, not to mention being crowned Female Vocalist Of The Year at the 2010 British Blues Awards, she returns to the Robin 2 next Tuesday.

Armed with her Fender Telecaster, a stunning guitar technique and a sultry, emotion-filled voice, she will be playing to a growing fanbase, not least after her impressive support slot at Black Country Communion's debut concert at Wolverhampton Civic Hall last December.

There she was reunited with old pals Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Joe Bonamassa.

"I'm very good friends with Joe Bonamassa who's been a huge supporter of me, he's been exceptionally good to me. We were asked to open up for them so we flew out from the States for the two shows.

"It was fabulous, as you can imagine, playing the Civic at Wolverhampton, an end of year gig with Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham. You couldn't ask for much more for a Black Country girl. And I'd already met Glenn and Jason quite a few times, they're really nice guys."

She adds: "I'm actually going to work again with Glenn on his tour this month. He's The Voice of Rock and he's a sweetheart. He really hasn't lost it at all, he just gets better, I think."

Although she tends to be pigeonholed as a blues performer she insists: "I don't really consider myself a blues artist. I would say I have obviously a huge blues influence and you can hear that but I think I'm definitely more in the blues rock/soul category."

So what can fans expect from the new tour?

"We're going to be playing a bit more from the new album. We've learned now what the favourites are on the albums and we've got some new stuff in there as well."

Diamonds In The Dirt is a more varied offering than its predecessor, offering both heavier and gentler moments.

"I just wanted to do something different from the first album really," says Joanne.

"I didn't see the point in making the same album again. And live, it gets a bit wearing if you're always playing shuffle or constantly doing the rock thing, so it makes it a bit more dynamic."

There's a real autobiographical feel to the new album, never more so that on the title track, a song which explores the process of emotional recovery, although Joanne is keen to impress that listeners shouldn't take every lyric as gospel.

Joanne Shaw TaylorShe agrees it is autobiographical in places but adds: "I don't think I intended it to be. It literally was the curse that I had 10 years to write the first album and then literally I had 10 days to write and record the second one. It was partly autobiographical and embellished in places."

As an example of that embellishment she quotes from Can't Keep Living Like This, the opening song on Diamonds In The Dirt: "Smoking to the filter with heavy-hearted breath, dragging through my days with gin-soaked steps."

"I can't afford to drink gin every day," she laughs. "Obviously I wouldn't be able to tour as much as I do if I did."

What did she make of being voted best British female vocalist last year then?

"That was a bit of a shock to say the least. I started as a guitar player and singing was something I had to do if I wanted to front my own band. I've never really thought of myself as a singer, although obviously I am. That was a bit of a shock although I think my mother may have voted several times, perhaps my grandmother as well!

"Needless to say it was really very nice and sweet of whoever voted."

One of the biggest changes in Joanne's life has been her decision to up sticks and move to just outside Detroit in the United States.

"I love it," she says. "We were touring there about two years ago and given the size of the country it takes a long time to tour, unlike England, so it made sense to have a base there. I spoke to my parents about it, you know, aged 22, 23, and they said 'go for it'.

"And it's working out well and musically I think it's made quite an impact. I chose to move to Detroit because that's where my band's from - it's actually a little bit out of Detroit but that's the nearest city.

"And Detroit's obviously got a very, very rich musical heritage. I kind of compare it to Birmingham and the Black Country really, you know we've got Zeppelin, Glenn Hughes, Slade and Ozzy and they've got MC5 plus the Motown thing."

She also draws a comparison between the two cities' industrial heritages and the current downwards economic spiral.

"I think there's something about that kind of atmosphere that encourages people to look for creative outlets."

So what does the rest of 2011 hold?

"Well, we're touring pretty heavily through the summer and we're going to try to do another album in September and have that out for later this year. So pretty much on the road and if we're not on the road it means I'm recording.

"So to be honest I think my next day off is Christmas Day!"

  • Joanne Shaw Taylor plays at the Robin 2, Bilston on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Tickets are £12.50.

  • Joanne will be special guest for Glenn Hughes on his solo tour at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday, may 29, 2011. Tickets are £24.20.

By Ian Harvey

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