Joanne Shaw Taylor
Almost Always Never

For her third solo album, 26-year-old Joanne Shaw Taylor decided to shake things up musically and creatively by tracking with a different producer and studio band than she used on her previous releases. Instead of returning to Memphis to work with Jim Gaines—the legendary producer who steered her debut and sophomore albums, White Sugar and Diamonds in the Dirt— Taylor trekked to Austin to record under the watchful eye of Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin, Heartless Bastards), and her music reflects this change. While her riffs still have a bluesy spark, her songs are longer and feature extended solos with a more exploratory vibe.

Bolstered by drummer J.J. Johnson’s tribal grooves, Taylor’s guitar tones have a new heft, thanks in part to the Les Paul she used extensively on the album in lieu of her faithful Esquire. Another sonic change is David Garza’s churning organ, which ebbs and flows around Taylor’s 6-string allowing her to investigate the nooks and crannies of her fretboard. Captured clearly on these 12 tracks, Taylor’s gritty voice is as strong as ever, and her songwriting reflects the 10 years she has spent onstage since joining one of Dave Stewart’s post- Eurythmics bands at age 16. —Andy Ellis

Must-hear track: “Soul Station”