Eric Taylor, The Prince Albert (Brighton, UK. 10/16/11)
The show was billed as ‘An Evening With Eric Taylor’, which for those of us who have seen him before knew this meant an evening of songs and stories. It turned out to be exactly that with the stories dominating as over two 45 minute long sets, Taylor sang just seven songs.
In recent times Taylor has suffered health issues (a stroke and heart surgery) and this giant of a man whilst still undertaking regular tours of the UK and Europe, is not the vital force he once was. There has always been an element of fragility about Taylor but tonight it was more evident than during previous visits. By the end of the evening, it was clear he was physically and emotionally drained. On stage each night he lays bare stories of a life hard lived over the past 60 or so years, so it was not altogether surprising to observe him signal ‘no more’ as the audience called for an encore.
As well as facing his own ill health he has suffered the loss of close friends and he started the evening with a tribute to his fellow singer/songwriter Bill Morrissey who passed away in July. Morrissey fittingly described in one obituary as a ‘hardscrabble poet’ struggled to overcome his own demons – alcohol and severe depression. Taylor reminisced how Morrissey could so easily charm his way into staying over for four or five days and then after his departure, he would note that all the whiskey had gone too!
This tour was focused on the recent release of a live album LIVE AT THE RED SHACK recorded over a few days with the assistance of a personally invited group of friends including amongst others Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith. Reviewing the album in ‘Maverick’ (October 2011 issue) Arthur Wood awarded it four and a half stars. A collection of songs from an always wonderfully constructed body of work, I wonder how difficult it was for Taylor to choose which ones to include? Tonight, from the album he chose Carnival Jim and Jean, which has featured, regularly, in his set lists; Tractor Song explaining that it was offered by invitation to the late ‘Queen of American Folk Music’ Odetta who loved it but ‘her people’ didn’t so she never recorded it and Mission Door which completed the first four song set. Jokingly, Taylor remarked that he couldn’t believe that he’d done the first 45 minutes on just a half glass of red wine!
Continuing with the new album, he opened the second set with Dean Moriarty introducing it with a tale about how at the age of 13 years he first read Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ and loved the book so much that he didn’t want it to ever finish. Tonight, young saxophonist Anna Kirby joined him – the song pulls at every heartstring anyway – can you imagine what it was like with the soulfulness of a saxophone accompaniment? Simply stunning.
All So Much Like Me from 1995’s self-titled release was a second song inspired by ‘carneys’ – carnival people and then the closer was one that had been requested during the interval break – Whooping Crane. Taylor was pleased that it had been asked for accurately – so many mistakenly think that Lyle Lovett wrote it since he is so well associated with it.
An evening in the company of one of the finest songwriters gracing this earth is an annual ‘must see’ for me. It is the seventh or eighth year running that he has played for this promoter (Mike Lance) in Brighton and long may he continue to ply his craft, for that’s what he is – a craftsman. Jela Webb