Starting out in several Johannesburg bands that opened for Evanescence, Hooberstank, and even Stained, Justin Taylor has now come to make his own music pretty far removed from those sounds. Releasing an independent debut, From Tienie Street (2007), he came to attention of the CandyRat label—kinda like a struggling jazz musician being noticed by ECM—which then published his second offering and is continuing that residency with his third, this disc.
Farther is another in the recent-ish CandyRat line of vocal projects by folk / mellow-rock oriented composers of unusual quality. Taylor slots in very nicely indeed, a writer-player-singer somewhat in the David Wilcox, James Taylor (no relation), Kenny Loggins, Al Stewart, and Cat Stevens mold through various aspects. All his songs are intensely personal takes on the interpersonal human condition, thoughts rooted in his girlfriend of the time, now his wife, having spent a year apart from him, traveling to the States for reasons unstated.
Whatever the back story, the result is a record of inner conflict, rumination, anguish, lament, and a somewhat tenuous resolution put forth in delicate tones, mostly just Taylor and his guitar, with help from cello and viola—Lan van der Merwe and Jean-Louise Nel respectively—on the lead and finale songs, a lusher atmosphere bookending the CD. The most striking element is that the absence of other instruments isn't even noticeable, so absorbing are the melodies and the tenor they're delivered in, focusing on the chronicle of painful separation, doubt, and endurance. Then, of course, each cut works beautifully on its own, often with a burning introspection and intimacy. One Track Mind, my favorite cut, would be, I think, a chart single along the lines of a Suzanne Vega or Tracy Chapman by way of Iain Matthews. That is to say, Justin Taylor has stripped it all down to just a poet-musician and his audience, holding the latter in thrall with naked heart and elemental skills, irreducibly solid, compelling.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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