Chip Taylor- New Songs of Freedom   Leave a comment


Chip Taylor

New Songs of Freedom

Train Wreck

 

Many roots and Americana pundits wondered aloud what Chip Taylor would do when long-time musical partner Carrie Rodriguez ended their association to move out on her own.

 

I’m guessing those who doubted Taylor were not among the long-time faithful. The man seldom, if ever, disappoints.

 

I found New Songs of Freedom on iTunes for less than four bucks, and still can’t believe my good fortune. This is a brilliant album!

 

Those familiar with Chip Taylor do not require a primer. But, allow a moment for the rest of the class to catch up. Chip Taylor:

a.       songwriter- “Wild Thing”; “Angel of the Morning”; “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)”; “Son of a Rotten Gambler”; “Must Be The Whiskey”

b.      professional gambler- he gave up a very successful songwriting career to bet the ponies

c.       brother- to Jon Voight, and therefore…

d.      uncle- to Angelina Jolie

e.       watcher of the world.

 

Chip Taylor is most obviously not the latest alt.folkie to come down the pike. He’s been around, and then some.

 

But I only became familiar with Taylor as an artist when he appeared at the Calgary Folk Music Festival somewhere around 1997. His lengthy song introductions (captured in one spot to excellent effect on this new disc) revealed the slightly twisted nature of his personality, as well as providing a context for his songs. And then he sang, and not just the hits. “Grandma’s White LeBaron” became an instant favourite. Each new album has been searched out and enjoyed.

 

Back to this new collection- New Songs of Freedom- a sampler of sorts that stands entirely on its own. This is a very American collection, but one that should be appreciated by all who support the ideals of democracy and responsibility.

 

The central song to the album is “Dance With a Hole in Your Shoe,” a tune that calls out those who would bully those weaker than themselves while encouraging an atmosphere of cooperation, understanding, and appreciation. The fact that it is a corker of a song shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

The highlight of the disc is the album’s closing cut revealing 25 minutes of Taylor working through “Dance With a Hole in Your Shoe.” He sings the song seven or eight times, encouraging his drummer to get just the right sound in just the right places. I do not recall ever having the opportunity to hear a song be built up within the recording session; sure, lots of albums include demos and out-takes as bonus material. But this is different, with Taylor struggling to communicate a sound that escapes his vocabulary.

 

You can hear in places the songwriter becoming weary of his own words, and you suspect he may be ready to pack it in for the day at any moment. And then he finds a new spark as the sound meshes…at least for a moment, and just enough to keep him reaching for the next bit. Slowly, the song takes the shape Taylor was searching for, even if he wasn’t sure it was there.

 

As well, midway through this process the ongoing influence of “Walk on the Wild Side” on contemporary folk music is revealed. (And, since listening to this album, I hear “Walk on the Wild Side” shades in every second song I hear, including on the latest Robyn Ludwick album.)

 

Also included are a couple tracks from Taylor’s Black and Blue America album from 2001. The introduction to “Black and Blue American” is comprised of samples from radio and television broadcasts from another point in American history, and provide a frame for Taylor’s lament. A new song (at least I think it is new) “Former American Soldier” documents the plight of Lao soldiers who fought alongside Americans in Vietnam, but were abandoned when the pullout occurred.

 

It’s a heavy EP-sampler-album, one made even weightier given the economic woes and political ineptitude we are exposed to as we (as North Americans) head toward November 4th. But the album never casts a preachy tone. Taylor is simply dropping in his thoughts for consideration, giving those open to his messages an opportunity to do some reflection.

 

At times, Taylor reminds me of Dan Bern. Of course, a mature Dan Bern, but one who hasn’t forgotten how to poke the bear.

 

New Songs of Freedom isn’t likely to change the world in any meaningful way. Music seldom has, if ever. But, perhaps it will encourage someone somewhere to look a little deeper, to consider the actions that are taken on their behalf. To agree with those actions, or to take a stand in opposition.

 

Or, maybe it is just a damn fine album from one of the unique voices of modern folk music.

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