The guitar’s the star and he really does want to make it cry or sing.
After a number of EP releases Taylor McCall’s full album debut ‘Black Powder Soul’ is a curious mix. In parts Americana, in parts full-on distorted guitar-orientated rock. After a short intro courtesy of McCall’s late grandfather crooning an old slave gospel the title track sets the tone for what is to come. Unashamedly big, bold and loud we get the first of a number of guitar-led anthems. McCall clearly loves a big sound and if the vocals don’t grab then the guitar solo surely will.
This approach is adopted for a number of tracks and if you like your guitar loud and arresting then tracks such as the nine-minute-long ‘Lucifer’, ‘South of Broadway’, and ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ will satisfy. For those whose ear is tuned more toward the Americana of side of life then McCall also provides ample evidence here that he can also slot easily into this genre.
‘Red Handed’ has an atmospheric and echoey sound wrapped around a lovely guitar riff. The song also demonstrates far better than the rockier numbers just what an asset McCall has in a gravelly sandpit of a voice. That vocal is showcased again on the next track ‘White Wine’, a much more sedate acoustic-led ballad with occasional accompanying twang that proves in this instance that less is more.
The peak of the album, from an Americana perspective at least, is ‘Wide Open’. The acoustic guitar again drives the track but here it is the organ that provides the rhythm and flow of the song. It has a tempo that is a million miles away from much of what else is on show on the album. It is a cracking track that stands out as the most commercially sounding song here.
But the album isn’t about McCall reaching for commercial approval. The South Carolina native has formed his own sense of unique musicianship and has unashamedly incorporated self-taught styles that fit each song rather than following conventional techniques. The result is an album that, as a collective whole, may not find universal approval. That said, McCall’s experimental bravery in getting his guitar to work as he wants it is to be applauded and, while the whole package may be slightly uneven there is enough diversity on offer to allow the casual listener to dip in and cherry-pick.