W hen Joanne Shaw Taylor was 8, her brother got an acoustic guitar, but he wasn’t all that interested in it.
But Taylor sure was. She went to her dad, who played guitar and harmonica, and said she wanted to try it.
“He kind of stared at me,” she said. “It was like an epiphany.”
Now 28, Taylor’s interest in guitar has turned into a full-time profession. She’s among the best young players on the national blues circuit.
She grew up in the town of Solihull, England, where she said blues music was hard to come by. Now she lives in Detroit. She’s also currently on tour with the Blues Caravan, a showcase organized by Germany-based Ruf Records, which stops by the Boulder Outlook Hotel on Monday night.
The showcase also features guitar slingers Bart Walker and CJ Wilder, who doubles on bass. Before their gig Monday night, the trio is scheduled to perform at Second Story Garage (secondstorygarage.com), the live music video series produced by the Boulder Daily Camera, Longmont Times-Call and Colorado Daily.
As a child, Taylor studied classical guitar with a youth ensemble in Birmingham, England. One day she discovered the video “Live from Austin, Texas,” which features blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1983 and 1989 performances on the television music show “Austin City Limits.” The personality Vaughan expressed through his improvisational prowess had a profound effect on Taylor.
“I came from a classical guitar background,” she said. “I hadn’t heard a guitar played like that.”
That’s how Taylor plays now. Through feel, strength and tone, she channels emotion through her instrument. It’s the essence of the blues.
She is the rare woman performing this style of blues electric guitar, and she both chafes at and embraces her role as a rarity in the field.
On one hand, being labeled the “girl guitarist” can be a putdown. On the other, she enjoys showing that women can rip up the fretboard in what traditionally has been viewed as the “masculine way.” And she’s happy to serve as a role model for girls who are just learning the instrument.
Aspiring 8-year-old female guitarists might still be inspired by Vaughan. But now they have Taylor to look up to, too.