Joanne Shaw Taylor: Girl Got The Blues, What A To Do

We were (and are!) thrilled to book Joanne Shaw Taylor for this season. The blues & rock icon is someone we, and the rest of the blues community, have been massive fans of for a long while now. But as we started to read around JST for our brochure, a theme began to appear; “Joanne Shaw Taylor is super good, for a girl.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe

It’s not an unusual outlook, you’ve got to have an angle after all. Danny Bryant and Oli Brown have both spent years being sold on the basis of their relative youth, and it is impressive that JST has managed to overcome any stereotyping within the industry to make such a success of herself. But she isn’t a wild card, or an exception to the rule. Ever since Mamie Smith (first recorded blues artist) and Sister Rossetta Tharpe (credited with treating the electric guitar as distinctive from acoustic, the “Godmother of Rock’n’Roll) there have been women in blues. In fact looking into the history, the aforementioned legends are just one part of an argument that without female artists, there would be no blues as we know it.

In honour of that we’ve put together just a small collection of the female blues artists we’re most excited about right now. In no particular order….

Joanne Shaw Taylor
Having said “in no particular order”…it would be bizarre to start with anyone else. If you haven’t heard, JST is a British blues & rock guitarist who ran straight into her big break at 16 when a twist of fate delivered her demo into Eurythmics’s Dave Stewart. The rest is history, and JST returns to the UK for a Nationwide Tour this year.

Valerie June
A blend of rural roots and country Valerie June is  a Tenessee native very much keeping the vein of folk-blues alive. Shifting effortlessly between eras, her sound conjures a haunting feeling from a century ago when her idols were making music. She also has fantastic hair and sunglasses and that goes a long way with the Arlington Arts team.

Toshi Reagan 
The daughter of two civil rights activists, Toshi knows the power music has to unite people. It wasn’t too long after leaving school that Toshi was treading the boards with the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Elvis Costello. Now with her own band BIGLovely Toshi is “a diva, a concerned citizen, a voice in the wilderness” (Michael Arthur) and all round musical powerhouse.

Ana Popovic
Originally from Serbia, it was Ana’s father who introduced her to the blues, and her latest album was recorded alongside him revisiting their favourite songs from her youth. This ‘Contemporary Blues Female Artist’ 2014 (Blues Music Award) has a big jazz influence from Ana’s formative passion for American blues artists.

Anais, (or Regine Hantelle, when she’s not on stage) is a French blues artist who first found success working alongside her twin sister Alice to release “A deux”. As impressive a guiatraist as Anais is there is really no denying that the highlight of the below song is her harmonica-less harmonica solo. And now you’ll probably have to listen to her to find out what we mean, shame that.


She’s played with Carolos Santana, Michael Jackson and Carrie Underwood and had a worldwide hit with “According to You”, something six year old Orianthi probably wasn’t even dreaming about when she first picked up a guitar. Turning her fast fingers to everything from country to pop to rock Orianthi has a real core blues soul.

Maki Shizusawa
Maki was, rather lamely, first known to the Western side of Youtube as “hot Asian blues guitarist” in which clickbait enthusiasts were at once shocked and delighted that a Japanese girl could tear it up. And tear is up Maki does, unfortunately for us she doesn’t tend to perform outside of her home country, and there’s something of a language barrier when trying to find more about her. But you can listen on Last FM, Youtube and all being right in the world we’ll be hearing plenty more from her.

Jane Pearce, Red Butler
Playing Arlington Arts in November, Jane Pearce is the lead singer of “Best New Act UK” (Blues Matters) Red Butler. Climbing quickly in the Blues scene the band are influenced by Etta James, Joe Bonamassa with a bouncy, happy to be here vibe.

Deborah Coleman
Despite great record sales Deborah Coleman’s really known for her crowd pleasing, high energy live performances. She was raised in a music-loving, military family – her father played the piano and she joined three of her siblings in learning the guitar. Plumping for lead guitar after hearing Jimi Hendrix (as so many of us do, though not often with Coleman’s success) she has gone on to win the Orville Gibson Award for “Best Blues Guitarist, Female” in 2001 and has been nominated for a W.C. Handy Blues Music Award nine times. So far.

 Joanne Shaw Taylor will be playing Arlington Arts on Friday 23rd October 8pm. Tickets are £20 and can be bought here or through the box office on 01635 244 246.

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