Chip Taylor is one of the weirdest of all country singers.
He isn’t quite country though country musicians and audiences have warmed up to him.
He was at the forefront of the country meets Americana meets alt country.
A native of Yonkers, New York, Taylor was in love with country music, and the early rock n country of Elvis, but he’d made his name as a (hit making) pop and rock songwriter and a wannabe folkie.
The country, pop, rock and folk all come through on his solo albums though they are all subsumed into the singer-songwriter style.
As the genre requires, these songs are pensive, expressive and revealing. Not that you can’t be with other styles of music but the singer- songwriter stuff (even when not written by you) comes across as confessional statements, little bits of the soul offered up to anyone who will listen.
Taylor’s love of country just means those confessions happen in a bar rather than in a coffee shop or on the psychiatrists couch.
There is a lot of Willie Nelson, Mickey Newbury here and some Guy Clarke and John Prine though run through with some New York sensibility and quirkiness.
Quirkiness qv: For a personal mellow album its title comes from its only cover, the rowdy Johnny Cash tune “Big River”.
Three of the tracks—"Big River," "John Tucker," and "You're Alright, Charlie"—were taken from a live radio show broadcast though they were overdubbed and remixed.
Backing him was his usual band though with overdubs by fiddler Buddy Spiker, famed pedal steel player Pete Drake, and Elvis’ 50s backup vocalists the Jordanaires, and the amazing and quirky jazzy, folk, world music instrumentalist Sandy Bull who added oud to a couple songs.
This is gentle, mellow, laid-back stuff, very laid back like totally horizontal, but the melodies are great, the lyrics catchy (nothing quite like that pop sensibility), and with good vocals.
Chip has had a little of a career revival over the last ten years but his output is much more worthy than a lot of others who are being re-evaluated and rediscovered.
I encourage you to check out my other comments for biographical detail and to find out what he wrote.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Same Ol' Story – unusual political territory for country music with its references to the (then-winding-down) Vietnam War and a lot of cynicism. Wonderful with great backing vocals by the Jordanaires.
- Holding Me Together – a country wheepie
- Gettin' Older, Lookin' Back – a mid tempo song about regrets. Familiar country material but catchy
- John Tucker's On The Wagon Again – great lyrics in a slow moving song about an audience member who likes to sit and drink
- Big River – (Johnny Cash) – not as BIG as Johnny Cash's legendary #4 country hit from 1958 (US). This version still works because the song has it's own internal dramatic and Chip gives it his all. I love it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_River_(Johnny_Cash_song)
- May God Be With Me – lead acoustic guitarist George Kiriakis and reminiscent, in mood, of "Help Me Make it Through The Night" and "Why Me Lord" in tempo. Maybe Chip was aiming for a song for Elvis to cover. He did a lot of this type of stuff in the mid-70s.
- Circle Of Tears – a bouncy country song about lost (or, rather, losing) love.
- Sleepy Eyes – similar to "May God be with Me" above. Quite big in drama but not over the top.
- I've Been Tied – a 70s thumping country song
- You're Alright, Charlie – another song about someone else. Chip loves the observations almost as much as Ray Davies.
Relaxed but with many joys … I'm keeping it.
1975 Big River #61Country
1975 Circle of Tears #92 Country
1975 #36 County
1975 Same Ol’ Story – #2 Holland
Same Ol' Story
Holding Me Together
Gettin' Older, Lookin' Back
John Tucker's On the Wagon Again
May God Be With Me
Circle Of Tears
I've Been Tied
You're Alright, Charlie
- "John Tucker", "Big River", "You're Alright, Charlie" taken from a concert for WHNW-FM radio. recorded live and then later overdubbed … that's why you get the applause. There is no post modern meaning there, or maybe there is.
RIP CHUCK BERRY (1926-2017)
a bona fide legend