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PREVIEW: Blues rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor at the Mahaiwe April 19

Joanne Shaw Taylor's biggest break was finding herself living next door to blues titan Joe Bonamassa 15 years ago, which led to a two-album collaboration and a lifelong artistic partnership.

Great Barrington — The unofficial Berkshires Blues Festival of 2024 continues apace: In March, we had Samantha Fish at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, and this month we have British blues rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor on the 19th. (The fun continues in May, when Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials appear at the Stationery Factory.)

Joining Joanne on the Mahaiwe stage on April 19 will be Steve Lehane on bass, Eric Savage on drums, Phil Whitfield on keyboards, and Shane Sanders on guitar.

Joanne Shaw Taylor’s biggest break was either getting to play in Annie Lenox’s band in 2012 or having her equipment break down while playing in Annie Lenox’s band. Stevie Wonder loved Joanne’s tone when her fuzz box malfunctioned, and the rest is history. Dave Stewart, who along with Lenox was a founder of the Eurythmics, had taken notice of Taylor a decade earlier, when she was only 16, and invited her to join his supergroup, D.U.P. So maybe that was her biggest break.

But on the other hand, could Taylor’s biggest break have been on the occasion of her albums with Ruf Records breaking into the top 10 of Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart?

Nope. Joanne Shaw Taylor’s biggest break of all has got to be finding herself next-door neighbors with blues titan Joe Bonamassa 15 years ago, which led to a two-album collaboration and a lifelong artistic partnership.

The fact is, Joanne Shaw Taylor has been making her own breaks ever since she fell under the spell of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn in her early teens when she was living in England’s West Midlands and got inspired to play the blues.

I spoke with Joanne via Zoom early this month, to find out what we should expect on April 19. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

I hear you have a new album coming out.

The new album is out June 7. It’s called “Heavy Soul.” I recorded it with Kevin Shirley in Nashville, Tenn., at historic RCA studios, and it’s a really lovely blend, I think, of blues and soul and pop, and kind of what I’ve been known for over these years.

Has that included soul in the past?

Yes, I think so.

The first thing I thought of when you mentioned working in Nashville is that you’re a British blues artist who comes across the Atlantic to make records in Nashville, Tenn. That’s kind of unexpected.

Well, I live there, so it was more convenience than anything.

The British blues act, living in Nashville. I love it.

Yeah. Well, I mean Nashville now is pretty much the hub of the music industry in the States. So yeah, I’ve been there for a few years now.

Now, pardon me, while I gush over Joe Bonamassa. I’m very impressed with him, and I’m impressed that you have worked with him. Have you made just one record with Joe?

I have done two albums with Joe.

And will you make another?

I don’t know. I mean, never say never. I mean, to be honest, working with Joe came about because we are best friends, and obviously we were both off the road during COVID, so it was like, I’m sitting at home talking to him on Zoom most nights, and it was like, well, why don’t we just get together and work together? But obviously, the world has opened up since then, and my tour schedule is pretty busy. Joe’s is even more crazy, so hopefully one day. But right now, we’re still busy touring, so it’s hard enough to get to see each other, let alone weasel out a few weeks to record and write.

Well, obviously you like working with him, but I’ll let you answer the question anyway: How do you like working with Joe Bonamassa?

Hate it. No, I love it. I mean, I’ve been best friends with Joe now for 15 years, and we live next door to each other. So I mean, aside from the fact that he is obviously an exceptionally competent musician, to say the least, it’s really nice to work with someone that you love and trust to that extent and who knows you as well as they do as an artist, but also as a person. It creates a really nice connection between you both if he understands who I am, what I’m trying to do, but also what my strengths and weaknesses are. He knows what I’m good at and what to push me on. So it’s a really beneficial experience for me.

It seems like he’d be great to work with because I’ve looked at some of his instructional YouTube videos, and he seems like he’d be such a supportive force for an artist.

Yeah, he’s been obviously incredibly supportive of me from the first time we met. There is also that thing with us though, because we know each other so well, that he knows that the best way to get me to do something is to make fun of me. We do have that kind of relationship. We’re very close, so sometimes he’s a little unsupportive, which is also what I need, to kick me in the butt. So it’s kind of both ways. I don’t think he does that with all the artists he works with, though. I think he reserves that for just … I’m lucky enough that that’s probably just me.

Can you talk more about the specific songs you’ll be playing at the Mahaiwe? Oh! And before you answer, I want to tell you that the Mahaiwe is a great place to play for a blues band. You’re really going to enjoy playing there.

Oh, lovely! Yeah! Well, I mean there’s been some lovely venues on this tour so far, so I’m looking forward to all of them. But that’s always nice to hear. In terms of the set list, it’s a bit of a mixture. It’s a long tour, so I will be changing the set list here and there. But it’s basically a mixture of the “Blues” album and “Nobody’s Fault,” the two most recent albums, and then quite a lot of new songs off the new album mixed in with some of my favorites from the back catalog. But we are switching things in and out and just trying to keep it fresh for us, since we are out for a good six weeks.

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Hear blues rocker Joanne Shaw Taylor on Friday, April 19, 8 p.m., at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington. Tickets are available from the Mahaiwe box office or by calling (413) 528-0100.


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