The British blues player’s simple-but-brawny tool kit for tough tones.

At age 13, Joanne Shaw Taylor switched from playing classical guitar to electric and fell in love with the big, tree-splitting sound of Texas Tele-slayer Albert Collins. Over the decades since, she’s developed her own high-voltage take on blues that’s packed with growl and sustain, and is driven home by her dynamic and intense fingerpicking.

Taylor’s first album, White Sugar, was released in 2009. Since then, the Wednesbury, England, native has navigated an international career distinguished by heavy touring and the release of six more albums, including her new Reckless Heart, which draws on her songwriting, vocals, and fat Telecaster and Les Paul tones to provide a well-rounded summary of her art.

We caught up with Taylor on a recent gig at Nashville’s City Winery, as she led her band through the final dates of a club tour that would then lead into summer festivals. She gave us the lowdown on her current road gear, including a pair of T-style Fenders and a Gibson Les Paul—hinting at two of the pillars of her inspiration: Collins and Free’s Paul Kossov. Listen to her tone as she opens the video with a taste of her biting and badass guitar-slinging style.

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This rare English Tonemaster was made circa 1957.

The Valco-produced English Tonemaster is a rare, lap-steel-inspired gem from the 1950s—when genres and guitar design were fluid.

The 1950s were a peculiar time for the electric guitar. Innovators, designers, and tinkerers were pushing the boundaries of the instrument, while musicians were experimenting with various playing techniques and sounds. There was an evolution of sorts (or de-evolution, depending on your slant) from solidbody “sit-down” guitars, like pedal and lap steels, to “stand-up” or “upright” solidbody electrics. If you look at an early Fender catalog—let’s say from 1953—you’ll see the Telecaster (and Esquire), the Precision Bass, and then a whole bunch of steel guitars. There was a shift underway, and many manufacturers began to blur the lines of what a guitar should look, sound, and play like.

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PRS Guitars and John Mayer officially announce the PRS SE Silver Sky, an affordable version of the original with PRS trademark bird inlays and three single-coil pickups.

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