Biography Joanne Shaw Taylor

When Annie Lennox paused her Diamond Jubilee Concert performance to let a white-suited, angel-winged blonde fire a soaring Les Paul solo into the sky above Buckingham Palace, uninitiated viewers all asked the same question. Who’s that girl? Needless to say, the music fans and blues-heads in the crowd already knew the answer. It was Joanne Shaw Taylor. The whisky-voiced singer. The midas-touch guitar heroine. The heart-on-sleeve songwriter. And now, the author of a classic third album that will plant her flag as the first lady of British blues.

Released on September 17 through Ruf Records, Almost Always Never is the sound of a bar being raised. Rather than riff on the same themes as her feted past albums, White Sugar and Diamonds In The Dirt, this third collection finds Joanne dodging expectations, writing the songs her muse dictates, diving in at the deep end with just her talent to keep her afloat. Recording in Austin, Texas, these 12 cherished cuts were nailed alongside Mike McCarthy – the producer whose gold-plated CV takes in everyone from Patty Griffin to Spoon – and the crack session team of David Garza (keyboards), Billy White (bass/slide guitar) and J.J. Johnson (drums). As you’ll gather from a cursory spin: they aced it.

“Mike comes from a different musical background from me,” explains Joanne. “He pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to explore new territories. I never thought when I started on this journey that I would ever get to work with such an amazing array of talent. I've been a fan of J.J., David and Billy for years, and their performances on this album are exceptional.”

Ultimately, Almost Always Never is Joanne’s statement. From the savage Les Paul solos of Soul Station to the strutting rock hooks of Standing To Fall, this record will delight the fans who clutch the security rail at Joanne’s gigs, waiting to be scorched by her guitar pyrotechnics. Yet there’s tenderness too, and from her aching suicide-note to a failed relationship on You Should Stay, I Should Go to the title track’s touching refrain of “You crash, you burn/you live, you learn”, this eloquent songwriter has never sounded more open and honest. By the time you reach the slow-burn Lose Myself To Loving You, she has you by the heart-strings.

Faced with this game-changing third album, it’s astonishing to note that this prolific musician is still only in her mid-twenties. It’s been quite a ride. Three albums. Countless shows across the planet. A mantelpiece groaning with awards. Support slots with everyone from B.B. King to Eric Sardinas. And of course, that performance with Lennox in June – watched on television by 17 million viewers.

Joanne never imagined any of that at the start. Back then, she was just an ordinary Black Country schoolgirl, bored with the music she heard on late-’90s pop radio, rifling her father’s record collection and falling for albums by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix. Guitars were “lying around the house”, she recalls, and at 13, she’d picked up her first electric and was practising “every minute”. At 14, she defied her teachers to play The Marquee and Ronnie Scott’s, and was starting to overcome insecurity about her voice. “I was never meant to be a singer,” she modestly told Classic Rock. “I’ve always had a deep voice. I think it came from my influences as a kid. When I was singing to records, it was guys like Albert Collins, Freddie King. As I got into my teens, I was a big rock fan: Glenn Hughes, Skin, Doug Pinnick. I wouldn’t get far on X Factor…”

Joanne left school at 16 and ran straight into her big break, as a twist of fate directed her demo tape into the hands of Eurythmics icon Dave Stewart after a charity gig. Reflecting on his first impressions, Stewart recalls that “she made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end”, and his phone-call the following day proved the start of a lasting friendship, with Joanne seeking his advice on the industry and even accompanying his DUP supergroup across Europe in 2002.

Stewart offered Joanne her first deal, but when the label ran into financial trouble, it gave her the chance to regroup and work on her songwriting. Thus far, original material had perhaps been a neglected side of her talent – “I never really wrote songs until I was 21” – but once the dam broke, things moved fast. In 2008, Ruf won the rush for Joanne’s signature, and soon she was working with veteran producer Jim Gaines (Carlos Santana, Johnny Lang, Stevie Ray Vaughan), bassist Dave Smith and drummer Steve Potts on the songs that became debut album White Sugar. “We recorded it in this little backwater town in Tennessee,” she recalls, “and if we needed a break, we’d walk to the shop and buy root beer.”

When White Sugar dropped the following year, taking in gems like Bones and Kiss The Ground Goodbye, it turned out the rock press had a sweet tooth, with Classic Rock crowning it Blues Album of the Month and Guitarist noting that “she plays with more attitude and flair than most: massive potential here”.

Soon enough, the buzz was building, with Joanne both raising her profile supporting behemoths like Black Country Communion, and honing her craft on 2010’s Diamonds In The Dirt. This second album was another step up, from the explosive lead breaks on Can’t Keep Living Like This to the heavier influence of her adopted Detroit hometown on the crunching country-blues of Dead And Gone. Not bad, considering that Joanne had written the material in just two days and recorded it in under a fortnight. “It’s the dreaded second album curse,” she laughs. “You have ten years to do the first one, and ten days to the second!”

By then, she seemed unstoppable, with Diamonds In The Dirt proving not just a classic record, but also a skeleton key to every door in the industry. Having received a nomination for ‘Best New Artist Debut’ at the auspicious British Blues Awards for White Sugar, Joanne scooped consecutive wins in the ‘Best British Female Vocalist’ category at both the 2010 and 2011 events: a haul that cements her position, as Blues Matters magazine once put it, as ‘the new face of the blues’. Since then, she’s broken into the notoriously hard-to-crack US market, beaten the stereotypes of her age and gender, and won the respect of the giants.

“There are a lot of great guitarists and singers in the blues today,” says Joe Bonamassa. “What I see in Joanne Shaw Taylor that sets her apart from the rest is the ability to write a great song. Not only is she a killer guitarist and singer, but you find yourself walking away from her shows singing her songs as well.”

Here are 12 more songs to get stuck in your head. With Almost Always Never, the precocious blues star has blossomed into a full-grown talent, raised the stakes and given herself the dream setlist for her UK tour in October. “I’ve loved every album and recording experience I’ve had to date for many different reasons,” reflects Joanne. “I think what sets Almost Always Never apart from my two previous albums is the songwriting process leading up to it. I’m so proud of these songs. All 12 of them combine into one body of work. It’s the perfect and truest example of who I am as an artist to date.”

        

 

 

 

 

Biography Shakura S'Aida

Born in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in Switzerland. A long-time Canadian who lives in Toronto. Speaks three languages. Performed in a half a dozen different countries in 2009, and will far exceed that in 2010.

Meet Shakura S'Aida, an international artist whose involvement in the Canadian music scene has been ongoing for the past 30 years, enriching the jazz, blues and classic R&B communities with her soulful voice, enthusiastic personality and commitment to music as an art form.

Whether speaking Swiss-German, French or English, Shakura instantly connects with her audience. With her sensational guitarist, Donna Grantis, she delivers a powerful show that always earns standing ovations.

And now, signed to a German record company, she's on the brink of releasing her first CD for Ruf Records.


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The CD "Brown Sugar" was recorded in Tennessee and produced by Jim Gaines, who has worked with artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Huey Lewis, Santana, Coco Montoya and hundreds more. There are a dozen songs, all but one co-written by Shakura and Donna Grantis.

"Brown Sugar" will be released internationally in Spring 2010, and Shakura will tour more than a dozen European countries (sharing stages with Meena and Coco Montoya), and play major festivals across Canada and in the United States.

Already an experienced international artist, 2009 saw her perform at a major jazz festival in Tangiers, pay return visits to France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland, and make a quick trip to Finland to help mix and master the new CD.

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Shakura S'Aida — pronounce her name "Shack-oora Sigh-ee-da"— began performing at a young age. Her first steps into music began with a Toronto community band called Mystique, which found her belting out tunes alongside Deborah Cox, and then became the lead singer in the 13-piece world music band, Kaleefah, that would later be nominated for a Juno Award.

She quickly learned how to own the stage and "perform," a skill she has since carried to the musical stage with roles in such productions as "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Momma, I Want to Sing," and to the theatre as an actress. She's carried off supporting roles in film with Sudz Sutherland's "Doomstown" (2006) and in Frances Anne Solomon's "A Winter Tale" been featured in an installment of "Flashpoint" a major CTV television series that's also aired in the U.S.

As a solo artist, Shakura's career has spanned genres and countries and taken her to some of the most noted stages in the jazz world. She has performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York and has been nominated for numerous Maple Blues Awards over the last four years. She's at home with the repertoires of Ray Charsles, Nina Simone and the basic blues catalogue — but always wins audiences over with her own emotionally powerful songs.

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"I am truly blessed by all the incredible opportunities I have had," says Shakura. "My life has been filled with amazing adventures; I can't wait to see what happens next!"

What will happen next is an even greater degree of international acceptance, and a growing fan base around the world. That's for sure — Shakura S'Aida is a force of nature, and one that will have to be reckoned with.

Biography Savoy Brown

Blues is not for the faint-hearted. Since the genre first drew breath, its greatest practitioners have embraced the darkness, spinning tales of hardship and death, hellhounds and devilry. If the sleeve of Witchy Feelin’ suggests that Kim Simmonds, too, has a tendency towards the macabre, then Savoy Brown’s iconic leader is happy to confirm it. “Blues has always dealt with themes of the Devil, witchcraft and so forth, and I’ve always written along those lines. At least three of the songs on Witchy Feelin’ have that hoodoo vibe… Released in 2017 on Ruf Records, Witchy Feelin’ proves the Devil still has all the best tunes. From the thrillingly brittle guitar riff that opens Why Did You Hoodoo Me, we are in the hands of a master, with Simmonds reigniting the seismic vocals and searing fretwork that established Savoy Brown as linchpins of the ’60s British blues boom. “On this album, I tried my best to get my voice in its power zone,” he explains. “I’m a baritone singer. I like listening to singers I can relate to, such as J.J. Cale, Mark Knopfler, Tony Joe White and Tom Rush. For my guitar playing, I still get inspiration from Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and all the Chicago players I grew up listening to back in ’63… but I always listen to new music too.” Recording alongside Pat Desalvo (bass), Garnet Grimm (drums) and engineer Ben Elliott, Simmonds leads us into a world of dark nights, wild weather, women and whiskey: all perennial themes given a modern twist by this ageless bluesman. “The songs on this album have been two years in the making,” he reflects. “I tried to write songs that had a personal point of view yet can be relatable to everyone. On Vintage Man, I wrote about being the type of guy who doesn’t change as he gets older. I wrote about the power of love on Why Did You Hoodoo Me. And with Guitar Slinger, I wrote a song about seeing a great guitar player in an old country bar – as I did when I first saw Roy Buchanan in ’69.” Anyone who witnessed Savoy Brown leave the blocks in 1965 would speak of a similar epiphany.Back then, the band were the spark that ignited the blues-boom, signing to Decca, opening for Cream’s first London show and boasting a lead guitarist who was being namedropped in the same reverential breath as peers like Clapton and Hendrix (with whom Simmonds jammed). Already, the guitarist was emerging as the band’s driving force. “I had a vision,” he reflects. “When I started the band back in 1965, the concept was to be a British version of a Chicago blues band. And the exciting thing now is, that vision is still alive.” Soon, Savoy Brown had achieved what most British bands never did – success in America – and became a major US draw thanks to their high-energy material and tireless work ethic. “There’s far too much said about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” Simmonds told Classic Rock. “It’s a cliché. We were all extremely hard-working guys. When we came over to America, we were like a little army. I look at that time as being filled with incredible talent.” Times changed, of course, and by 1979, Simmonds had moved from a London he no longer recognised – “The punks were everywhere!” – to settle permanently in New York. The Savoy Brown bandmembers came and went, and the music scene shifted around him, but the guitarist stuck thrillingly to his guns and reaped the rewards, performing in iconic venues like Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore East and West, releasing thirty-odd albums, and later enjoying a well-deserved induction into Hollywood’s Rock Walk Of Fame. Even in the post-millennium, while his peers grow soft and drift into semi-retirement, Simmonds retains a vision and an edge, spitting out acclaimed albums that include 2011’s Voodoo Moon, 2014’s Goin’ To The Delta, 2015’s The Devil To Pay – and the emphatic new addition to Savoy Brown’s catalogue, Witchy Feelin’.“I'm amazed that I still have the energy inside me to play guitar, create music and write songs,” he considers. “I’ve been blessed in my life and I thank God for that. I’ve never been a believer in holding on to the past – I don’t look over my shoulder and congratulate myself. I always want to climb the next mountain – and I’m very pleased with this new album…”

Biography Samantha Fish, Dani Wilde, Victoria Smith

In 2011, three of the hottest female musicians on the contemporary blues scene embarked on a tour calling themselves "Girls with Guitars." Their appearances at clubs and festivals unleashed a wave of enthusiasm on both sides of the Atlantic. Nearly everyone involved - both audiences and the performers themselves - hoped the band wouldn't simply break up and fade into memory once the tour was over.
The good news: The fun is about to continue! Starting in January 2012, the 8th edition of the annual Ruf Records Blues Caravan hits the road, this time under the heading "More Girls with Guitars."
Kansas City native Samantha Fish may have been the least experienced member of last year's "Girls with Guitars" trio, but she quickly became a powerful presence at the very center of the show. Her performances lived up to - no, check that - surpassed all the pre-tour hype surrounding this rising star of the blues. Just 22 years old, Fish sings and plays at an astounding level of maturity. She made that clear on her debut album Runaway, released during Blues Caravan 2011 - a convincing blend of blues, boogie, rock and country. "Smoking, amped up blues/rock that just doesn't quit and keeps you coming back for more. Hot stuff." (MidwestRecord.com)
Dani Wilde already has plenty of experience on the Caravan. 2012 will mark her third go-round on the tour. Like Samantha Fish, the native of Brighton, England is a true triple threat as a singer, guitarist and songwriter. She combines the intensity of the "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin with a rugged and unique fingering technique. With her performances of songs like "Abandoned Child" and "Red Blooded Woman" from her current CD Shine, she delivered some of the most gripping moments of last year's concerts. "Wilde's soulful voice ... conjures up both deep emotion and a real feel for the blues." (GetReadytoRock.com)
Joining her from Brighton is Victoria Smith, a newcomer to the tour who will complement the "Girls with Guitars" on bass. This in-demand musician has already played in countless rock bands (including the popular punk outfit The Ramonas), but was originally inspired by the soul music of Motown Records and particularly by the revolutionary playing of Motown's bass legend James Jamerson. Considered one of Britain's finest young bass players, Smith will join the always dependable Blues Caravan drummer Denis Palatin in a top-flight rhythm section.
If you were lucky enough to witness the "Girls with Guitars" in 2011 - get ready for an evening of blues that is sure to be just as dynamic and musically compelling. For further information on "More Girls with Guitars," go to: www.bluescaravan.com

Biography Ana Popovich

In the blues, years or even decades of "payin' dues" is the norm. Most blues musicians toil in relative obscurity, and those that have been at it a while wear their struggles like a badge of honor. By those standards, Ana Popovic's rise has been meteoric. Within five years of leaving her native Yugoslavia, the 29-year-old singer/guitarist has played all major European music festivals like Peer, Bishopstock and Notodden. She has shared stages with Bernard Allison, Kenny Neal and Solomon Burke and recorded with hitmaker Jim Gaines. Perhaps most impressive of all is her W.C. Handy Blues Award nomination for Best New Artist of 2003 - a rare honor for a European blues artist.

Ana Popovic was born in Belgrade in 1976. Her father first introduced her to the blues, through an extensive record collection and sessions hosted at the family home. Ana took to the guitar and founded her first serious band at age nineteen. Within a year, she was playing outside of Yugoslavia and opening shows for American blues icons like Junior Wells. By 1998, her band was doing 100 shows annually and appearing regularly on Yugoslavian television. Her debut CD, "Hometown", provided a first glimpse of her talents as a singer and guitarist.

In 1999, Ana relocated to the Netherlands to study jazz guitar. She quickly became a fixture on the Dutch blues scene and soon ventured into neighboring Germany. Ruf Records took notice and a few months later, she was on a plane to Memphis to record her successful debut album on Ruf Records, "Hush" (released in 2001). Since then, Ana's star has been rising like mercury on a Mississippi summer's day. With "Comfort to the Soul" (2003), Popovic took her burgeoning career to the next level, she delivered another diverse package of blues, rock, soul and jazz. The album makes one thing clear. Ana Popovic is not about recycling worn-out clichés. Her blues are fresh, positive and genre-expanding.

Now she's back with a brandnew live album - "ANA! Live in Amsterdam" (2005). It was recorded at the Melkweg in Amsterdam/ Netherlands. The refrain of her first song "Don't Bear Down On Me" can be taken straight away as the motto of the whole evening: "I'm Here To Steal The Show". And indeed, that's what she does! 29-year-old Ana Popovic proves with her own songs and fresh interpretations that she is an excellent and expressive guitarist with a powerful voice. The most impressive aspect of her music is its diversity of techniques and styles - smoking electric funk slide guitar, jazzy instrumentals and tight blues grooves.

Clearly, Ana Popovic takes her music seriously. It is her road home, to herself. Or - to paraphrase John Lee Hooker - her Healer. "We're living in a time when everything is rushed," she observed recently. "But where are we in all of this? And where's the music?"

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