A few months ago, Joanne Shaw Taylor played in Wolverhampton. It was a return to her roots, given that she was born up the road, but she was a world away from the blues guitar-wielding youngster she had been back in the early days.

These days, she’s a much more well-rounded performer—and as I said when I saw her that night back in February, she is getting better and better.

“Heavy Soul” can be seen in many ways as a halfway house between the “Nobody’s Fool” album (which took her music into a genuinely personal area) and the album of blues covers she made with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith.

Put simply, she is skilled enough to sound however she likes. “Sweet Lil Lies” (a track she was confident enough to play live at the aforementioned show, which is just a classic-sounding thing. Not strictly blues, but superbly done. The piano is superb, as is JST’s playing.

It’s impressive how many chances she’s prepared to take these days. “All The Way From America” is Americana of a type she hasn’t done before, and if “Black Magic” is a bluesy shuffle, then it’s as primal as she’s ever been, and the backing vocals are as soulful as it gets.

Perhaps because it’s produced by Kevin Shirley (Bonamassa, Maiden, Black Crowes, and about a million more), and there’s a raft of the finest session musicians around, it sounds like a million dollars, and as such, stuff like “Drowning In A Sea Of Love” is elevated above the norm.

How many of these come from a real place only the artist knows, but “A Good Goodbye” sounds like it does. Indeed, many of the 10 tracks seem to delve deep within. That is especially true of the title track—and if we have spoken about the musicianship throughout, then you can’t overlook Taylor’s voice. Always good, it’s been an instrument in its own right more recently.

After the tumult of that one, “Wild Love” is more restrained. But its lyrics are anything but.

It’s a hallmark of “….Soul” that it doesn’t sound remotely bothered about the sounds of 2024. The strings of “Someone Like You” would have sounded like they belonged in any era, likewise the rockier The sounds of “Devil In Me” are featured here, where everyone lets go and plays.

The record concludes with “Change Of Heart,” a mid-paced, soul-injected, and American-sounding track with a warm West Coast zephyr blowing through it. Just before the solo, there’s an echo of Sambora-era Bon Jovi (to clarify, this is a positive comparison).

And if that’s Joanne Shaw Taylor these days, then it suits her, because much like her live shows, she continues to improve. A rich creative vein that has produced some of her finest work has yielded another high point.

Rating: 9/10

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