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Blues Round-up: August 2012

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from Joanne Shaw Taylor, Charlie Lankester & The Mojo Killers, Henrik Freischlader, Tab Benoit and Lewis Hamilton & The Boogie Brothers

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Almost Always Never

Her opening brace of albums White Sugar and Diamonds In The Dirt went some way to silencing the “A girl? Playing guitar? And the blues?!” cynics, and with this third album you sense that 27-year-old Joanne Shaw Taylor now has the portfolio to escape the whiff of novelty for good. Almost Always Never finds Taylor – fresh from an angel-winged cameo (with Annie Lennox) at the Diamond Jubilee Concert – falling to earth in style, on a tracklisting that explores a pile-up of car-crash relationships via some enjoyably feral fretwork. She was always great at the rough stuff, and there’s a ton of aggro in the explosive meltdown of Soul Station and the pugnacious Standing To Fall. These days she shifts gears beautifully too, with Army Of One mining the bare-footed vibe of Led Zeppelin III, and the dreamy, bruised, cards-on-table title track is perhaps the most impressive thing she’s done yet. The album title might be somewhat ambiguous, but our verdict is clear: a brilliant return. (8/10)

Charlie Lankester And The Mojo Killers: Songs In A Minor Key

Given that Lankester was diagnosed with incurable liver cancer on the day he was due to finish mixing this album, it’d take some kind of monumental arsehole to criticise it. It’s not an issue: the brass-bolstered band playing like demons and Lankester’s lugubrious tales of waking up in the gutter proving utterly magnetic. (7/10)

Henrik Freischlader: Still Frame Replay

Yes, you’ll investigate for the prominent ‘Feat Joe Bonamassa!’ sticker and the two-guitarist tear-up on the title track. But you’ll stick around for the German’s later offerings, with the clipped funk-blues of Longer Days cutting a rug and the smooth grooves of Gentlemen! suggesting Freischlader has crossover potential if he can infiltrate the right radio playlists. (7/10)

Tab Benoit: Legacy: The Best Of

Not just the nicest bluesman in Louisiana – he was a key figure in the post-Katrina clean-up – Benoit might also be its most underrated. His dirt-track delivery and capacity to milk a few well-chosen notes are superlative, but the factors that lift him above the dregs are his Cajun flavours and live power: you can witness both of these on this album’s rollicking live closer, Bayou Boogie. (8/10)

Lewis Hamilton And The Boogie Brothers: Empty Roads

No, not the Formula 1 ace. The ‘real’ Lewis Hamilton has been Scotland’s best-kept secret for years, trading in punchy original material and a guitar style that recalls Peter Green with its alternation between soothing and scorching. The vocals could do with a little panache, but with any justice, it should be this Hamilton shaking champagne on the podium. (6/10)

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