May 1, 2019
Taylor Alexander – Good Old Fashioned Pain
Taylor Alexander sent me a message about his influences on the ‘sound’ of this brilliant release: “I remember me and the producer Brendan St. Gelais sitting down and listening to albums like a Portrait of Merle Haggard, Grievous Angelby Gram Parsons, and Flyin’ Shoesby Townes Van Zandt when we were thinking through the arrangement side of things, those are some of my favorite albums”. The sound, I think, is more contemporary but these references tell you where the boy’s heart is and it shows in this ten-track self penned country music triumph.
After serving an internship in another band Alexander left Atlanta and found his way to Nashville. Here he honed his song writing skills and hooked up with some excellent musicians for his first full-length release. Along the way he participated on The Voice, which means by the very nature of the show that he has a voice. His tubes lend a touch of class to every song with its range, expressive emotion and tone.
The title track opens with a wailing electric guitar and seamlessly becomes a country bluesy ballad as an organ and female backing vocals add to the feel recounting the reassuring sensation of pain as you wrestle with life’s tribulations. Throughout the songs and arrangements are faithful to the best tradition of the genre: memorable hooks, lashings of harmonies and pedal steel but never pedestrian or less than crafted. The melodies reinforce the themes and moods conveyed by the lyrics.
“I Never Asked For Nothin’“ tells us:
“There’s just two kinds of people,
The haves and the have not’s,
I Never Ask For Nothin’,
So nothin’s what I got”.
A splendid wistful yet resigned story of the working man.
“Real Good At Saying Goodbye”is every classic Country story in a wonderful 3½ minutes of deprecating reflection. With a change of pace “It Don’t Matter To The Rain” is a sweet melody lit up with pedal steel and a 60s acoustic feel similar to Glen Campbell. “Break My Heart Tonight” could be early Merle with a pace and arrangement that shoehorns in some honky tonk piano, pedal steel and references to Hank Williams and jukeboxes. Yet this is no pale imitation, you’re just in the presence of a true believer at worship.
We sign off with “Sorry For Growing Up” my album highlight. A slow ballad with a tinkling piano redolent of, say, Bruce Hornsby as company. What about this for a lyric:
“Grown men go on diets,
Go easy on the cheap beer,
Grown men take vacation only every other year,
They got all kinds of money but got no time to spend it,
And when a grown man dies,
They talk about how much he lived”.
Wonderful observational irony, from an artist who’s starting rather reflecting on a long life and career.
Alexander is one of the reasons we listen to all these albums: to find something wonderful that we can hopefully give a leg up into the glare of the public’s view. If I’ve done one thing worthwhile this month then this is it. Buy.