Monica Taylor – Trains, Rivers & Trails
The immediate impression I got when listening to this 11-cut 43-minute Monica Taylor (vocals/acoustic guitar) collection is her relevance to singers such as the late Kate Wolf & Betsy Kaske with Ferron, Cris Williamson, Iris DeMent, Gillian Welch & Emmylou Harris.
Oklahoma native Ms. Taylor has a genuine voice for these types of songs. She has a distinctive vocal style that reeks of originality & a well-defined style. “Down in Louisiana,” is impeccably cool. Full of energy & all the essential sweetness that makes it instantly accessible. “Gentle On My Mind,” is a cover of the late John Hartford classic. It’s an incredible piece but I would have tagged it on at the end since it doesn’t have the pacing the other songs seem to have — tunes like “The Sound of a Train,” “Salty Tears,” the lovely “Ocoee Love Song.”
The LP explores the standard avenues of this traditionally-inspired music. The dirt road odes, mountain trails, rotted fence posts, the sound of trains, the rusty weathervane that creaks in the wind, wisdom from her Cherokee & Scottish heritage.
Produced by Jared Taylor (acoustic & electric guitars/dobro/banjo/Weissenborn guitar/harmonies), Travis Fite (acoustic & electric guitars/dobro/mandolin/harmonies) & Monica — this is her 9th LP. Trains, Rivers & Trails (Drops July 29–Horton Records) features delights, but the real plum tune is “Minor Key,” written by Woody Guthrie with Billy Bragg & Wilco. A great duet with John Fulbright who also plays the accordion fills. Fulbright has a solo LP “The Liar,” which becomes available soon. A new folk classic is “Minor Key” & this is about as genuine as it gets.
There’s a little Dolly Parton inflection in Monica’s voice on “When You Let Your Love Light Shine,” but while the cliched “love light” will always suggest a novelty the song is actually strong, creative & well-sung. There’s nothing here that’s corny. Monica’s a serious artist with a focused vocal approach to many greatly inspired songs. “Just Came In To Say Goodbye,” is potent & while it could’ve bordered on cheesy – it never does. The musicianship delivers with a bittersweet beauty. The steel guitar notes sing & the piano pours just a few drops of emotionalism through the melody. I like this & I’m from New York City.
Except for the Hartford cover, every tune is soaked slowly & stews nicely – each song seems related to the next. It’s a concept CD without being a concept CD. Everything is done tastefully. “Train Take Me Away,” is a rollicking good trip & Monica sings with enthusiasm. This album will leave you feeling good.
Players – John Fulbright (piano/Hammond B3/Wurlitzer), Jake Lynn (drums/percussion), Casey van Beek (electric bass), Luke Bulla (fiddles/mandolin) & Roger Ray (pedal steel). Photo of Jared, Monica & Travis by Phil Clarkin & Monica live by M. Tim Bla Photography (Credit is on the image).
CD @ iTunes, Amazon & http://monicataylormusic.com/ & https://hortonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/trains-rivers-trails