Before This World ★★★★ Concord
Taylor’s smooth, mild-mannered take on American folk, blues and soul is couched in a mostly comfortable present
A critic once noted that James Taylor’s music is comforting because there is “rarely a left turn and never a sour note”. As well, his is a living, breathing, irresistible story of redemption complete with a warm signature voice and sound. Taylor’s smooth take on American folk, blues and soul is couched in a mostly comfortable present ( You and I Again, the sinuous Stretch of the Highway) but the 68-year-old’s ghosts linger and occasionally have their say – Watchin’ Over Me references his early history of drug abuse and depression. Taylor has said wryly that all his songs sound pretty much alike, and certainly Montana and Angel of Fenway would sit easily among his early work. Still, these nine songs (plus Wild Mountain Thyme), his first new material for some time, are generally thoughtful and surprisingly expressive.