Album Review – Willy Tea Taylor’s “4 Strings”
If you’re a tragic, tragic audiophile 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.
Willy’s approach is very simple. Just him, his songs, and an ancient parlor-sized four string guitar with a hole in the sound board big enough for Arnold Schwarzenegger to drive his Hummer through. For those who like to rock out with your sock out like a Chilli Pepper, then yeah, this may not be your aesthetic. But for the rest of us searching for that chicken soup for the soul of the audio persuasion, stuff that napkin down the front of your shirt and get to slurping.
Willy Tea has two types of songs: good ones, and great ones. And the great ones are so great, it is hard to listen to them and then say that better songs have ever been written. And this isn’t just from the lyrics, but the way the lyrics mesh with the chords, and Willy’s soothing voice.
I think the greatest asset of Willy Tea Taylor’s music has nothing to do with the music, but with Willy Tea himself. The man has this remarkably calming presence that comes across in his recorded music just as much as it does live. It’s like a cool, easeful wisdom, or a warm, soothing place you may have experienced as a kid, like the arms of a favorite uncle. Willy Tea is the cure for high blood pressure, or a hurried state of mind. There is something very cherubic about him, almost caricaturist with the big beard, wide hat, and round features, that has the effect of disarming you, of slowing you down, of causing a reflective inspection of your priorities.
But in no way is Willy Tea preachy whatsoever, far from it. Some may see the beard, or that he’s from California and think this is the same preachy hippy-like singer/songwriter bit they’ve heard many times before, but Willy is surprisingly grounded, singing about baseball and chicken fried steak. There’s no judgement here. He even has a song about long-time Bay Area baseball pitcher Barry Zito, that on the surface is inaccessibly specific, but the deeper meaning is to be willing to let go, when it is time to let go.
As is illustrated perfectly on the cover of 4 Strings, Willy has a lot of Shel Silverstein in him. I could see kids being drawn to him instinctively, yet his fountain for adult entertainment is just as appealing. For the songs “Hummingbird” and “Life Is Beautiful,” Congress should seriously pass a law that every human on the world planet has to listen to them. These are songs you feel in your tear ducts, in the depths of your spine, in the hairs on the back of your neck, in the deepest recesses of your brain where only the most precious memories are kept.
The murder ballad “Molly Rose” takes Willy’s soothing presence and voice, and contrasts it against the words and story of a madman as he eeks out haunting words of death. “Bones” is a fun, foot-tapping tune with a more visceral approach played higher on the neck than the rest of the album. “Cattleman” and “Wrong Way to Run” bookend Willy’s real-life wandering spirit that is so fun to vicariously experience through his music.
Like so many albums that take the stripped down approach, there is just less to criticize, allowing the pureness of the music to flow. I cannot give you one reason not to like Willy Tea Taylor or 4 Strings, only reasons you’d be a fool for not loving it.
Two guns up!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Willy Tea Taylor is also the co-frontman for The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, and is currently making a film called “Searching for Guy Clark’s Kitchen” with Tom VandenAvond.
Read the song review for “Life Is Beautiful”
November 26, 2011 @ 8:49 am
good porch pickin music
November 26, 2011 @ 9:42 am
Been a fan since his band ‘The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit’ put out The Ghost of Good Manners in 09. Extremely good versions of Bones and Hummingbird on that one, as well as a lot more amazingly written songs, as well as some that he plays solo (Big Jim’s Guitar). A lot of great energy on that album as well.
November 26, 2011 @ 3:59 pm
I need to get that album.
November 27, 2011 @ 2:37 pm
the fact anyone is more worried about trigger’s spelling than appreciating this wonderful record is ridiculous.stop worrying about spelling and start worrying about what yo’ve been missing out on,Willy Tea Taylor
November 26, 2011 @ 2:50 pm
a copy of 4 Strings is the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday for anyone who appreciates fine quality music…lol
November 26, 2011 @ 3:16 pm
its audiophile not audiofile. It is tragic you consider yourself a writer and a fan of music but cant even spell that word correctly. Good writers know how to proofread and how to spell 100% all the time.
November 26, 2011 @ 3:58 pm
So I guess you shit Tiffany cufflinks. Show me where I said I was perfect. How about a “Hey man, I know it’s an easy mistake, but you accidentally misspelled this word.” And this is coming from a prick with bad punctuation. If you want perfect, go over to CMT.com and read Alison Bonaguro blog about how white Scotty McCreery’s teeth are. Around here, it’s the thought that counts.
November 26, 2011 @ 4:34 pm
Next time you get on your linguistic high horse and criticize someone for spelling a word incorrectly, please make sure to get clear on the rules of capitalization, comma usage, and contractions. While you’re at it, don’t forget to (i) learn the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’, (ii) be mindful of use/mention errors, and (iii) avoid structural awkwardness, as in your third sentence. Leaving out the complementizer clause in your second sentence was probably a bad idea, too.
Anyway, thanks Triggerman for turning me on to this record. Great stuff.
November 26, 2011 @ 7:53 pm
Whoa, you are quite the knobareeno….How’s that for spelling? Seriously, all you got from this entire review was that he misspelled a word? D O U C H E B A G.
November 26, 2011 @ 8:08 pm
Alright folks let’s lay off the guy.
November 26, 2011 @ 5:45 pm
Ol Uncle Tom V been preachin Willy ever since I met Tom in 2005. I am a big Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit fan as well… my 1st intro to Willy. What a great article for a man that deserves it…. no shit. He has this song, Lullaby, that just floors/lifts/amazes me beyond repair. Check out Good Luck Thriftstore Outfit, check out the movie, “Kingdom of Survival” from Slowboat Films (the Folksinger), where Willy Tea can appear to be the main feature of the film. Thank you again Trig…. means a damn lot to me that you wrote this up!
November 27, 2011 @ 5:51 pm
That’s easily my favorite album of the year. It’s just absolutely amazing.
January 3, 2012 @ 3:11 pm
OK so I took your advice Triggerman, and I bought this album. After hearing Life is Beautiful, the first time you posted it, I fell completely in love with it. So after being addicted to that song, I purchased this album off iTunes. Really, really good stuff. Reminds me of a folkish version of Iron & Wine (if you’ve ever heard them before).