REVIEW: Taylor Alexander’s “Good Old-Fashioned Pain” Shows Portable Adaptability

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The best songs, like the best songwriters, are portable, adaptable and durable. They’ll take a beating, they’ll change, but they’ll survive. On Taylor Alexander’s first full-length album, Good Old Fashioned Pain, the title song shows that kind of resilience. While the balance of the album was written after Alexander arrived in Nashville, “Pain” survived its menial labor-inspired birth in Georgia, touring all over the Southeast, Alexander’s stint on “The Voice,” and the scrapping of most of his other material, all to find its re-worked self leading off the new record.

“Good Old Fashioned Pain” is a barroom stomp loaded with frustration and great guitar work. “I’ve been working in the Georgia sun, just barely getting along” opens the song and sets the tone – it’s a tune for anyone (and that’s all of us) who’s taken a punch or ten from life. That pain is unavoidable – “It’ll find you either way”- but it’s also needed – “Turns the boys to men and the meek to pray.” Alexander’s youth spent surrounded by religious music (his father was a church music minister) shows up not only in the pain-builds-character nature of the song, but also the music itself – the song features organ and a choral swell toward the end.

The newer, Nashville-bred songs reflect Alexander growing up and learning the very adult side of the music business. “Passing Lane” has country boogie feel, a deceptively upbeat rhythm for a look at thoughts of mortality brought on by a musician’s itinerant lifestyle: “I guess I finally realized/No one in this town retires.” “Hole In The Wall” is a (semi-nostalgic) look back at a dingy first apartment, the type of place that was nothing special – “It sure ain’t where my heart is/Just where I keep my stuff” – but, as you’ll realize years later, was the place you needed at the time. Alexander and his band recorded the mostly acoustic track live in the studio to give it an immediate, lived-in feel.

Hard-fought (and fought against) maturity is another theme on the album. “It Don’t Matter To The Rain,” in its gorgeous old-school country harmonies, reminds the listener that we’re entitled to nothing – “If you get the mind that anything is owed you/Just remember, it don’t matter to the rain.” “I Guess I Moved On” has the singer surprised at how his life (and that of a former lover) has changed. And the album’s closer, “Sorry For Growing Up”, is a piano-based ballad which asks which is harder, the mistakes of youth or the fear of missing out that comes with maturity. Do we miss too much when we grow up? Even in one’s passing, there’s not truly an answer: “When a grown man dies/They talk about how much he lived.”

Good Old Fashioned Pain was produced and engineered by Brendan St. Gelais, mixed by Mark Petaccia, mastered by Sam Moses and tracked at The Smoakstack in Nashville. Musicians include Drew Kohl (guitars, keys, background vocals), Whit Wright (steel guitar), Randy Harper (keys), Cameron Carrus (bass), Taylor Jones (drums), Kiely Connell (background vocals) Lindsay Ellyn (background vocals), St. Gelais (guitars, bass, keys, percussion, banjo, background vocals), and Alexander (vocals, guitars, mandolin, dulcimer, vibraphone).  Order the album right here: http://www.iamtayloralexander.com/

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