Review: “4 Strings” by Willy Tea Taylor
Every once in a great while there comes along a tremendously talented singer/songwriter whose songs move us so profoundly that the visceral impact of each one is felt long after the final chord played and the last line sung trail off into the brief silence between. Folk troubadour Willy Tea Taylor is just such an artist. With a rootsy, minimalist sound created from a four-string acoustic and his natural voice, he sings life true and with genuine feeling, and he strums and picks his guitar with the calloused hands of a seasoned working man.
Lyrically, Taylor’s content is usually either achingly personal or altogether poetic, sometimes both…all words penned with a soul that clearly finds just as much spiritually in family, friendship and music as in the things of nature, and with the big ol’ heart of a rambling bard who finds just as much sentimentality in a familiar ramshackle farm property or battered pocket knife with a rusty blade as in the specific features of a loved one’s face or the rural landscape of his hometown of Oakdale, California.
4 Strings, Willy Tea Taylor’s latest release, proves all that I have already wrote about him here. Out of its ten songs, nine are originals and one is a cover of Robert Lowry’s “Wandering Boy.” And while the entire album is utterly brilliant, and while many of the songs are equally enjoyable, there are a few that stand a little taller than the rest, like “Life is Beautiful,” a gorgeous composition of unique depth, “Molly Rose,” probably the best murder ballad since Doc Boggs’ “Pretty Polly,” and “Wrong Way to Run,” the album’s closer, a life song with catchy note patterns and lyrical content that is just as personal as it is philosophical and spiritual.
It was through maverick filmmaker M.A. Littler and his piece of work titled Kingdom of Survival that I was first exposed to Willy Tea Taylor and his music. Some time later I came across Taylor again, this time as one of the featured performers at a showcase event held by independent roots label Hillgrass Bluebilly. Like my first Willy Tea Taylor experience, the second one was a bit video footage. Still, it made quite an impression on me, and I became pretty determined to not only learn more about this artist but to get my hands on some of his recorded material. When I obtained a copy of 4 Strings, that last was realized, and it was admittedly better than I had hoped for. Truth be told, the disc has been in my player off and on, though mostly on, for the better part of two months now, give or take…and it will undoubtedly continue to be played as frequently and with an undiminshed sense of appreciation.
Willy is just one of those rural America, proletariat-friendly, humble, down-to-earth good ol’ boys, all bushy bearded, in faded denim overalls, wearing either a raggedy cap or classic flat-topped straw farmer’s hat, who can pick up a guitar or banjo and just play the hell out of it. He’s of the breed of singer/songwriter that we need more of in the music world today.
Quite simply, Willy Tea Taylor is possibly one of the most important American singer/songwriters of our time. A bold claim, to be sure, but one that is easily backed up by the songs he has given the world so far…songs that you do not want to miss out on.
The video below is from