Sean Taylor “Short Stories”

Independent, 2023

Blues-influenced americana with poetic lyrics.

Album cover artwork for Sean Taylor "Short Stories"London singer-songwriter Sean Taylor has plied his trade for the last two decades, spending a lot of this time on the road. He has supported acts such as Robert Cray, John Fogerty and John Mayall and has played all over the world including sets at Glastonbury and The Cambridge Folk Festival.

He was nominated for the 2023 UK Blues Award Acoustic Act Of The Year and is the host of the Blues In Britain interview series ‘How Musicians Work’. However, in addition to the blues on show here, there are obvious americana influences with some beautiful steel guitar from Joe Harvey Whyte, who has worked with The Hanging Stars and Billy Bragg amongst others. The musicianship on the album is very strong with Taylor contributing vocals, guitar, piano and harmonica. Great support is provided by Paulina Szczepaniak (Percussion) Justin Carroll (Hammond Organ) Eric Lounsbury (Trumpet) and the aforementioned Harvey Whyte. Together they make a great sound with the instruments complementing each other perfectly. Taylor’s vocals are either in a quiet, gravelly Tom Waits style as in ‘Be Cool’ and ‘Gravestones’ but are more often conventional.

‘Open Your Heart To Love’, a heartfelt plea to let love in, with a great chorus, ‘Snowdonia’ and ‘Set Me Free’ are examples of americana-influenced tracks. ‘Snowdonia’ is an ode to the beauty and magic of nature, written after swimming in a freezing cold lake in Wales. ‘Set Me Free’ is a love song set in these hard times: “So much pain in the world going round/But when I’m with you I never feel down”.

The blues here comes in different guises. In the opener ‘Happy Days’, an almost-rap influenced by Samuel Beckett, there is a low-key bluesy piano. The lyrics here, as in other tracks, are rather poetic and talk of despair but also the need to carry on: “Ever tried ever failed?/ Our desire will prevail/ Fail better fail more/ Kick the hinges off the door/ I can’t go on, I will go on”

Later on, there is boogie-woogie piano on ‘Mona Lisa’  a true story about the theft of the painting in 1911 and Picasso being wrongly accused of it. In a similar vein is ‘Sweet Maria’ which reminds you a little of ‘In The Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry. A contrast, though, is ‘The Letter’ which is classic blues with harmonica and tells of a love lost.

The final track ‘Be Cool’ has a laid-back jazzy feel to the piano and trumpet with half-whispered, half-spoken vocals which create a real sense of atmosphere in the description of an early hot summer evening in a city: “Tenement roofs steamed as the pavements boiled/ Metal fire escapes twist as broken bones”

Fans of the bluesier side of americana, particularly those who like Tom Waits, and those who like some poetry in a lyric will really enjoy this album.

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