This is one beautiful CD of novo-chamber and occasionally semi-gospel folk. Gileah Taylor writes everything and was solo for a while, as was Chris, but when she, more than a decade ago, ran into him, a rising star, and married him, it took a while, but they one day discovered they worked well together. Don't ask me how on Earth the two could've missed it, but such mysteries do indeed abound in the infinite universe. Chris had kinda chucked the music, given himself over to the family business in order to bring home the bacon for one and all as Gileah kept to her art (both, of course, raising them thar kidz), and then, one fateful day, Gileah writing at the piano, Chris passed through the living room, and she playfully asked him to sing a certain verse. He did and the composer-chanteuse found herself transfixed. "It was," she said, "like an angel singing!"
And I quite agree. Fellow FAME critic Frank Gutch Jr., the cat who turned me onto the magnificent Tom House CD Winding Down the Road (now a modern benchmark in my critic's framework), recommended the duo, enraptured by Gileah's work and singing. So I hiked me to YouTube, located a live video, and found myself enamored of Chris' presence despite Gileah's equally angeline nature. Something about the guy's smile and gentle approach to things was sublime. However, the CD arrived, and, as good as that vid was, the disc is ten times better, an immersion in healing airs and thoughtful reverie from start to finish. From it, I now know that neither is better than the other, both are superbly matched, the collaboration is transcendent. It will likely remain one of the great enigmas that it took them a decade to discover the fact of their extraordinary resonances in music, but, as a confirmed cynic, I love that kind of paradox.
The CD is here now, waiting upon your ears, and the cut that started everything is Love on This Island. I'd like to tell you it's a standout, but it's not…because every song here is golden, making Chris & Gileah one of those rarities where it's impossible to choose a favorite track. Here's one of the reasons: part of their inspiration resides in the marvelous and grossly undersung Innocence Mission, a band I've many years been very keen on. Another reason is because the CD works on the level of a concept LP, flowing as though a smooth narrative tapestry of subtly intricate work and upleveled homogeneities. No attempt is made to bid for Billboard chart position but instead to create a work of art from start to finish, somewhat in the tradition of the Zombie's Odyssey and Oracle and Love's Forever Changes but with all traces of rock and roll erased (so it wouldn't hurt to refer to Nick Drake's wont as well…but with all Nick's tragic darkness fled), reading' like Proust rather than Bronte.
Producer/mixmaster Allen Salmon sits in as third member of the duet, and I must suspect his hand is one of the telling points in the disc as a whole. For one thing, the interplay of multiple guitars (three altogether) and keyboards is well entablatured, as is the layering of each arrangement, and I'd love to know who was in fact responsible for all that arranging as well, though I'll deduce it in the person of Gileah. Her delicate airy vocals carry all the elements signifying she knew precisely what was needed to surround herself properly. Nonetheless, Chris' contrasts enter with frequency, deftly styled to both match and illuminate, and Allen buttresses everything. This, I promise, dear reader, is one of those CDs you're going to return to many times because it holds a lot more than is at first apparent despite all the loveliness.
And, hey, is it just me or is Gileah a dead ringer for Scully from X-Files, even more so for that aviatrix outfit on the way cool cover photo?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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