Sean Taylor takes The Path Into Blue

For album number nine, London based Sean Taylor, once again travelled to Austin in Texas to record a set of songs that deal with a host of modern-day issues and, as usual, he doesn’t pull any punches as his acerbic wit and acute observations are brought to bear on subjects as wide-ranging as Brexit, the English character, Trump, Grenfell and others. What’s more, he has employed numerous ways to carry his message from the rapping opener, (rap never my sound I would choose) through to the JJ Cale, Dylan or Martyn styles of singer/songwriter we are more accustomed to.

With a riff that evokes Superstition the opening track, This Is England, is the one that is full of inspired and biting lyrics that are ‘rapped’ in a sarf London street voice which may jar and, I confess, if he could have fitted all of those apposite words into a melody, it would have been a song I could have returned to…yet, somehow if this comes up on shuffle it won’t be skipped because lines such as “So write me a jingle with a million hooks, WhatsApp me Mr Shakespeare ain’t no time for your books, this is England with a cuppa tea, a can of Stella singing ‘God Save The Queen’…. Breathe in; Breathe out” hold a message for all: not just in England. Next Sean takes aim at the tragedy of immigrants and their dangerous attempts to escape their war-torn homelands in a song named after the Italian island that witnessed so much loss of life. Lampedusa has a breathy vocal over the Mediterranean, jangling acoustic guitar. The bass and piano reinforce the atmosphere and make for neat instrumentation despite the subject matter. Another tragedy gets the Taylor Treatment as the horrors of Grenfell are addressed in a disturbingly honest way… “Is the money you make worth the lives you take? Make no mistake the only truth you own is fake” is just one example as the music is suitably mournful with simple guitar and organ chords behind the Waites like vocal. The electric guitar work is subtle and studied until the solo, which is fuzzed and magnificent. The next song has the dreaded Christmas word…but this is Sean and he sleighs it with honesty as The Last Man Standing (Merry Christmas) is more a treatise on consumerism and the use of horns echo his Salvation Army reference as he makes this a hymn for lost souls. Our cousins over the pond…well, one of them is the target in the searing lyrics of Little Donny. No political comment from me…suffice it to say that this should be required listening over there. The music comes across as laid back jazz come blues song with smoky sax and a beat that may (or may not) be supposed to sound like the chain gang sound of old. The vocal duet with Stephanie Daulong gives it an even greater authority somehow. A Cold Wind Blows moves back to the UK as Sean sings of the plight of the London homeless. The instrumentation is a slightly surprising lilt of country as the acoustic and pedal steel gives it a patina that is seemingly in conflict with the subject…until you listen to it a few times. By this stage, it is not only Sean that is breathless…I am too as I await the next target. Well, Take It Down To The Mainstream is actually my favourite for two reasons. Firstly it is a rock song with a restrained but decent riff and secondly, it takes a pop (pun intended) at the state of manufactured acts and the shows that perpetuate dreams to the talentless! Tobacco And Whiskey is next and although it addresses two of my favourite things, it is a little less than complimentary as he is talking of addiction beyond my amateur attempts…all of this sprinkled over a languid electric guitar that is hugely entertaining in its expressiveness and subtlety.  Number 49 is also about addiction…this time drugs over a JJ Cale like structure…there is also a hint of Marc Bolan to my ear. Drink, drugs…what next? Well, how about depression? No punches pulled here as I said earlier and The Other side Of Hurt is electric piano and finger-clicking behind more hard-hitting lyrics delivered in a breathy manner. When the organ and electric guitar cut in, it is still a mesmerising piece.  A blurring of genres next as country, jazz and gospel mix to provide the backing for the plea for peace that is In The Name Of God. It might just be me, but I’m sure I detect a slight to the Big Man. Final and title track, The Path Into Blue is Americana a la Nils Lofgren with the guitar and vocal stylings. Another potentially depressing song that stays alive because of the stunning acoustic work.

Sean’s prodigious songwriting talent is never in question here, it’s just that some of the lyrics are a little hard to bear and hit too close to home sometimes. In saying that, they are also an object lesson in what is wrong in the world and deserve to be heard. Personally, this is an album that will not be played when I need to be lifted…it is an album for my more introspective moments when, despite the Tobacco And Whiskey warnings, I will lie back with the aforementioned and ponder the rights and wrongs of life, the universe and everything and let Sean’s rectitude, passion and pathos wash over me. As I said, it deserves to be heard…give it a try and make your own mind up.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting

  1. This Is England
  2. Lampedusa
  3. Grenfell
  4. The Last Man Standing (Merry Christmas)
  5. Little Donny
  6. A Cold Wind Blows
  7. Take It Down To The Mainstream
  8. Tobacco and Whiskey
  9. Number 49
  10. The Other Side Of Hurt
  11. In The Name Of God
  12. The Path Into Blue
  13. All songs Sean Taylor

    Musicians:

    Sean Taylor – vocals, guitars & piano

    Mark Hallman – bass, drums, piano, Hammond organ & Backing vocals

    Stephanie Daulong – backing vocals on This Is England, Little Donny & In The Name Of God

    Andre Moran – electric guitar on Lampedusa & In The Name Of God

    Joe Morales – saxophone on Little Donny & In The Name Of God

    Henry Senior – pedal steel on A Cold Wind Blows, In The Name Of God & The Path Into Blue

    Jaimee Harris – backing vocals on Little Donny

    Noelle Hampton – Choir vocals on The Last Man Standing & In The Name Of God

    Barbara Nesbitt – Choir vocals In The Name Of God

    Newland Moorefeld – Choir vocals In The Name Of God & The Last Man Standing

    Nick Randolph – Choir vocals In The Name Of God & The Last Man Standing

    Michael Mordecai – trumpets on The Last Man Standing

    Rich Haering – trumpets on The Last Man Standing

    Brass section on The Last Man Standing arranged by John Mills

    Sean Taylor takes The Path Into Blue

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