Eric Taylor has been writing great songs for decades. His songs have been covered by some of music’s most respected voices, and he’s still going strong, as his most recent CD, Studio 10 indicates. Below is my tribute to Taylor and his music. His website is also included at the below link.
Studio 10 is not unlike most of Taylor’s body of work; it’s loaded with vivid images, compelling, moody stories, and take-home insights. These mini-stories, these characters and their implied lives, while personal and specific in nature, are universal in that they speak to life, not only in Taylor’s home state of Texas, but from ocean to ocean: sometimes angry, even violent, sometimes replete with the beauty of love, and occasionally get-drunk-and-dance happy, all this despite those characters’ bad decisions, problematic family situations, and the angst of passing years.
There are elements of the finest poetic work in Taylor’s songs, and his musicianship seems designed to be deceptively simple. He knows how to occasionally slant a rhyme to best effect, and his chording and arrangements are more complex than the one-four-five changes of some of his contemporaries. He’s aware of the moods he wants to create with each song, and he knows how to orchestrate his guitar playing to evoke them.
Much of today’s singer-songwriter fare is self absorbed, often occluded, as if the writer-singer wishes he or she didn’t have to share those songs with the public. Not so with Taylor. He may put shards of his own psyche into his songs, but he has the good sense to wrap them in characters and stories that play well with any audience. In performance, Taylor is at heart a dramatist: lighting a smoke, stomping a boot heel in rhythmic emphasis, growling out his hard stuff or softly dispensing ballads in a manner that always seems innately fused to his songsmithing.
On Studio 10, he plays out his old themes with ever new characters and story lines. He honors those who have passed from his life – singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey and under-appreciated writer Jim Tully. He speaks of endings in Molly’s Painted Pony, in Adios, and Cover These Bones. But he finds time to frolic in Francestown and casts and artist’s eye over Amsterdam in String of Pearls.
Being a musician intent on honestly following his muse is hard today, but at day’s end it’s the mark of an enduring talent. Studio 10 testifies to that talent, that endurance, and once you hear it, you have to hope there’s a lot more to come.
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