A retro seventies classic singer-songwriter sound from Sheffield via 21st Century Nashville.
Samuel James Taylor may hail from the Steel City, Sheffield, in God’s own county of Yorkshire, but to record his latest album after over twenty years in the music business he went to Music City, USA, Nashville Tennessee, to work with artist turned producer Neilson Hubbard. According to the publicity notes for his new album ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’, this latest burst of creativity followed a period of disillusionment and frustration with the progress of his career, which found Samuel James Taylor considering leaving music altogether. What he actually did was revisit the music that had inspired him to become a musician in the first place, artists that include James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Carole King, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Paul Simon, and Leonard Cohen which re-charged his creative batteries and helped him decide how he wanted the record to sound. ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’ was recorded live in the studio over three days such was Samuel James Taylor’s newfound creative confidence.
This confidence is perfectly reflected in the title track, ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’, which opens with Taylor’s fine finger-picked guitar on a lively tune whose lyrics are a reminder that just because someone has lost their youthful sense of idealism, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep going on your original journey whatever challenges and setbacks you may have suffered. With the help of a pedal steel guitar the softer ‘Faith, Hope and Fortune’ looks at the challenges of finding what you really want, with all the baggage you have accumulated. The soft rock of ‘Churchville Avenue’ takes us very much back to the ‘70s. We stay in the ‘70s for another ballad, ‘Churchville Avenue’, which explores how the past can limit the present and the future. The tempo moves up a few notches as Taylor moves to more of a strum on his guitar on ‘Virginia Girl’ which is a plea to remain a dreamer no matter what happens in life. Taylor’s vocals and finger-picked guitar with washes of pedal steel guitar illuminate the exploration of love that is at the heart of ‘I Kissed Your Sister Under The Apple Tree’. The complexities of adult love are the subject of ‘Exquisite Love’. Rekindling love for the future, based on what had been, is at the heart of ‘Through The Silence and The Half Light’ with an acoustic guitar giving a sense of hopefulness and the pedal steel guitar a sense of wistfulness. Love allows people to have dreams for the future and ‘Rage and Fight’ shows that retaining love is worth fighting for. Taylor uses natural landscapes to illustrate his love and how the object of his love is also a map of love for his life in ‘Map Of Love’. The tempo increases for another set of lyrics that uses nature and weather to show how an individual can help bring clarity to another’s life. With sparse accompaniment and short simple lyrics, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ is about love continuing to grow with an atmospheric instrumental coda. ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’ ends on a positive note, recognising that while time continually marches forward, you can still retain certain aspects of your youthful self.
The live recording over three days in Nashville, and the production of Neilson Hubbard, helps invoke the sound and spirit of ‘70s singer-songwriters. We shouldn’t forget that James Taylor’s ‘70s records featured steel guitar by the late great Red Rhodes and were a major influence on subsequent generations of roots singer-songwriters. Samuel James Taylor may have looked to the past to re-invigorate his muse and ‘Wild Tales and Broken Hearts’ successfully invokes classic ‘70s singer-songwriters but recorded by some of the best 21st Century Nashville musicians, and the lyrics are more mature and evidence an experience of life you can’t have when you are in your ’20s.