It was catching lightning in a bottle. And that is what we’re all searching for when we listen to a record, go out to a live show, pen or play a song ourselves, invite some friends over for supper and songs, and search for the manna of life with friends that is enhanced that much more through the incredible gift of music.
Willy Tea Taylor
“It was my girlfriend’s birthday, and I had to borrow 40 bucks from a buddy to take her out to dinner,” Willy Taylor explains. “This car drove by and something flew off the roof and hit our van. It was dark, and I said, ‘Wow that sounded important’ because it was heavy and it came off the top of the car. It’s just a classic move. I’ve done it before, leaving stuff on top of the car.”
Music, just like sports, is mostly a young man’s game. Most certainly there are wily veterans out there taking the field and taking the stage, but many of them made their name when they were young. It’s hard to hold onto the dream of making the big time the older you get, whether you’re trying to strike out opposing batters, or sing on the stage to strangers.
The wait is nearly over, and the emergence of one of our generation’s most talented songwriters draws near as Oakdale, California’s Willy Tea Taylor readies the release of his debut album called “Knuckleball Prime.” The thought with Willy has always been that he is a gem waiting to be discovered, and Blackwing’s support may be what delivers Willy Tea to the wider audience his songs deserve.
What do pencils and music have in common? Apparently a lot more than it would appear on the surface. And Palomino, the company responsible for bringing the legendary Blackwing Pencil back from the dead has now launched a music wing and record label, signing Willy “Tea” Taylor, noted songwriter, co-frontman of the Oakdale, CA-based Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit.
If you asked me point blank who I thought was the best songwriter of our generation regardless of genre, scene, commercial or critical success, I would tell you without hesitation that it is Willy “Tea” Taylor from the interior valley cattle town of Oakdale, CA. Willy “Tea” Taylor is an enigma, while at the same time being the most down-to-earth person you would ever meet.
There’s nothing worse than inadvertently coming within ear shot of one of those songs—the idiotic country music laundry list / checklist ditty, or even worse when the performer is inclined to get all hip-hop on your ass and start rapping the lyrics over a drum machine beat. If you find yourself bent over and fighting back a gag reflex from Class A country checklist exposure, these songs will help cure what ails you.
There are songwriters, and then there are songwriters; those folks that so effortlessly set words to the moods and moments of life and that can make you weep like a baby or wildly happy to be alive. These songwriters are there for us, creating a soundtrack for our most enduring memories, making the most of the life experience by enhancing it with music.
Austin Lucas, Bonnie Price Billy, Charlie Parr, Chris Knight, Corb Lund, Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, Johnny Cash, Joseph Huber, McDougall, Micah Schnabel, Possessed by Paul James, Tom VandenAvond, Two Cow Garage, Will Oldham, Willy Tea Taylor
The artists worth your time are so often aloof when it comes to self-promotion, so the music will never just fall into your lap. You have to work for it. You have to seek it out, or it must seek you out, and in many respects this imparts an even greater value to it than the already elevated value of the music itself compared to the music you encounter inadvertently through most popular media.
They say that great singers can sing the phone book and make it beautiful. If that’s the case, great songwriters could write about the phone book and make it beautiful. baseball seems like such a mundane topic to delve into with such depth for a whole song. But in other ways, this presented the greatest challenge to Willy’s songwriting, and by the success of the song, it presents one of his greatest feats.
Songs become timeless by having the uncanny knack of feeling relevant no matter when they are performed. The title track from Tom’s latest album Wreck Of A Fine Man falls into that lot. Last week when it was announced Darius Rucker would be the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, “Wreck Of A Fine Man” seemed to be the best salve for the old soul struggling with the short-sightedness of today’s society.
Though Americana may be a less-institutionalized and much smaller genre that tends to have better music and promote artists that are easier to respect, sometimes it can seem almost as exclusive as Music Row. So here is a list of artists that even considering Americana’s heavy requirements, could make it big and improve the Americana world if only given a chance.
Tom VandenAvond is one of these wheel guys. They may not be the flashiest of artists, but when you sit back and study the music, you find these wheel guys are essential to it in so many ways; how everything seems to revolve around them. They are the trunk from which so much other music grows. Trace the veins of the music and you find that their songs and work create foundations and inspiration.
Scott McDougall from Portland, OR might be the last of the true Romantic-era troubadours: a bardic-like, almost fantasy character that arrives in town with a bass drum on his back and guitar in hand, and sets up at the local pub to sing songs, spin tales, slay lonesome moments, and save the spiritually repressed before whisking out of town like something out of a dream.
Few artists can articulate the important and poignant message of resetting priorities in life, and do it in such an enthralling manner as Scott McDougall. The Oregon-based One Man Band is set to release his sixth album A Few Towns More on April 10th, and promises to continue to carry his fans vicariously with him as he journeys across the country.
I think at this point it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that in 2012 we’re all going to die of death. You know, that whole Mayan thing. But I thought just to be on the safe side, just in case we all don’t die, we’ll probably want to listen to some music, so wouldn’t it be cool to know what some of your favorite artists have planned for 2012.
Adam Lee, Austin Lucas, Bob Wayne, Derek Dunn, Hellbound Glory, James Hunnicutt, Jayke Orvis, JB Beverly & the Wayward Drifters, Lone Wolf, Lonesome Wyatt, McDougall, Olds Sleeper, Peewee Moore, Possessed by Paul James, Rachel Brooke, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Roger Alan Wade, Ruby Jane, Slackeye Slim, Sunday Valley, Those Poor bastards, Whitey Morgan & The 78's, Willy Tea Taylor
It was an unbelievably strong field, and they all deserve to be recognized. But in the end what Willie Tea Taylor’s “Life Is Beautiful” had that no other candidate could match was poignancy. It’s also hard to deny a song that can make grown ass men cry, but Willy Tea’s poignancy is what really put him over the top for 2011.
So here it is, the list of albums Saving Country Music deems essential for 2011 listening. Please note this list only includes albums that have been reviewed so far. And as always, your feedback is encouraged. What are your essential albums? What did we miss? What was released in 2011 that deserves a review?
Bob Wayne, Coday Canada, Eilen Jewell, Gillian Welch, Hank3, Husky Burnette, Jason Boland, Jimbo Mathus, Larry & His Flask, Little Lisa Dixie, Lone Wolf, Lonesome Wyatt, Lucky Tubb, Lydia Loveless, Nick 13, Olds Sleeper, Rachel Brooke, Scott H. Biram, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Sunday Valley, The Damn Quails, The Dirt Daubers, The Goddamn Gallows, Tom Waits, Ugly Valley Boys, William Elliot Whitmore, Willy Tea Taylor
The two common threads that run through most of the candidates this year, is a progressive approach to the music, and poignancy in the message. These are changing and troubled times, and the songs that speak to us the deepest will act as the soundtrack for our 2011 memories for years to come.
99 Lives, Amanda Shires, City of Shame, Codeine, Ghost Bird, James Hunnicutt, Jason Isbell, Life Is Beautiful, Rachel Brooke, Run You Down, Scott Biram, The Boomswagglers, The Goddamn Gallows, Victory Song, Willy Tea Taylor
If you’re a tragic, tragic audiofile like myself, then you understand just what a blessing it is when out of the blue you discover an artist that really speaks to you, and it opens a brand new vein of music for you to enjoy for years to come. This is the experience most people come away with when hearing Willy Tea Taylor for the first time.