Sean Taylor Songs [Release date 15.06.15]
‘The Only Good Addiction is Love’ is Londoner Sean Taylor’s seventh album and is another step forward by a song writer who matches lyrical maturity with intricately woven musicality.
It’s also the third album in succession, produced, mixed and mastered by multi-instrumentalists Mark Hallman. Recorded in Austin, Texas, Hallman’s talent lies in highlighting Sean’s guitar skills and uncovering the perfect equilibrium of an artist equally at home immersed in folk, blues, jazz and trancy rhythms. It’s a balance worth noting because of the essential interrelationship between Sean’s words and music, exemplified by an album that sets a new standard for contemporary roots music.
You can hear traces of Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen – who is referenced on the title track: “I asked Leonard Cohen what should I do, I’m still waiting for an answer and he’s singing the blues,” – on an album that refuses to be compromised by either genres or the weight of expectation.
‘The Only Good Addiction Is Love’, is a quote derived from former Uruguayan president Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, one of the few contemporary politicians who humbly lived his life by example. And whereas Sean’s previous albums have concerned relationships, politics, and life in general, this album is more about his actual art, and perhaps the philosophy of art and its place in the world.
On Rothko, he connects with the glow of the painter’s canvases, “Every night beauty takes off her dress, The truth is Rothko red, Passion bleeds like death, Our hearts are one breath.”
Listen too, to the short but very effective stop-start ambient instrumental ‘Lorca’, penned about the Spanish poet and play right – and you quickly realize you don’t need to be schooled in the works of the poets, painters or writers to connect with Sean’s emotionally charged music.
Such has been his progress over the last few albums that the early career comparisons with John Martyn have long been succeeded by his mastery of poetic imagery, trancy rhythms and whispered vocals. All those essential elements are an integral part of music that conveys heartfelt meaning.
Sean Taylor is an artist in the real sense of the word. His music envelops you and draws you into the meaning and emotion of his songs.
Above all his lyrics illustrate the potency of words to convey meaning in a musical form. His art can be found in the turn of a phrase, or as is the case on ‘Tienes Mi Alma En Tus Manos’, (‘You Have My Soul In Your Hands’), a subtle percussive groove with sonorous cello, a Nils Lofgren style vocal over a languid organ and scat singing, on a song that concludes with an uplifting outro.
He’s a song writer who is acutely aware of history, culture and the magic of words with which to reflect on his chosen subjects.
On the plaintive, piano led and acoustic solo piece ‘Flesh & Bird’, he’s evocative, sultry and sensual, utilizing the space and the drifting piano with a whispered delivery that beautifully nuances the lyrical moment: “Our flesh is scarred with secrets, drunk with passion it darkens and deepens, Lovers chase everything.”
He’s a performer who only appears to feel truly happy when he’s totally lost in the thrall of a song, to the point that when he locks into the straight forward band arrangement and beautiful horn part of ‘We Can Burn,’ it comes as something of a surprise, and snaps you out of the reverie that casts its spell on the first half dozen tracks.
John Martyn’s influence bubbles up again on the acoustic ‘Moma’ as Danny Thompson’s bass lines are as thick as molasses. Sean’s slurred lyrics clinches the deal as he layers his vocals with gossamer thin bv’s
Much like the earlier ‘Bad Light’, the intro to his Jack Kerouac homage ‘Desolation Angels’ could be J.J. Cale, on a track with an uplifting melody bolstered by chiming guitars. It’s reflects Sean’s exploration of the intrinsic relationship between words and melody, on a song that finishes all too soon.
His close to the mic whispered vocals on ‘Les Rouges Et Les Noirs’ invites us in the world of painter Paul Klee and he finishes on with a train-time rhythmic adaptation of W.B. Yeates’ poem ‘The White Bird’, perhaps hinting at a future Americana influence.
From Niall McCormack’s cover paining to the artistic references throughout his broad based musical vision, Sean Taylor invites us into his aesthetic world in which the work of the artist reflects a self-evident beauty in the world.
It’s a measure of Sean’s ability as a wordsmith, musician and visionary that he is able to share those delights with us on eleven tracks that live and breathe the power of words. *****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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