Chip Taylor – Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records – Out Now
Save for 2015, Chip Taylor has released an album every year since 2012, garnering some of the best reviews of his 47-year-long recording career. As with his most recent work, again produced by Goran Grini and featuring longtime collaborator John Platania on guitar, the mood here is one of reflection (“prayerful thoughts”) and memories of childhood and family. The different emotions that spawned the songs are reflected in their grouping into Side A and Side B, Fix Your Words and When I Was A Kid. The latter is echoed in the sleeve photograph of himself his two brothers with the mother and the fact the album artist credit adds ‘aka James Wesley Voight’.
Taking the first half first, delivered in his distinctive semi-spoken whisper, the title track with its steady march beat, piano backing and gospel undertones is essentially about artistic integrity, of saying and singing what you mean from the heart, not what you’ve been paid for (“it’s worthless art when it’s made for gain”). His delivery gets intimately confessional with Whatever Devil Is In Me which, accompanied by strings, brushed snare and piano, takes a look at the angel and demons inside himself, asking for them to both show themselves. The mood sustains through the equally self-examining half-spoken If I Am, the whisperingly croaked gospel-tinged A Little Bit Underground about appreciating the roads less travelled, and the near-seven-minute in this together themed The Ground Moving Around Us. On the latter, accompanied by organ, he talks about the power of kindness and friendship, a song guessingly written in the wake of the Trump election. With the crooning soulful female backing, there’s a possible touch of Cohen here.
Side one ends with the spare piano notes and fiddle of the don’t give up sentiments of Love Knows The Clouds and, with its plucked fiddle, We Have Not To Say, essentially another call to action song about doing rather than just talking about it, getting your toes wet rather than just watching the river flow past.
Pedal steel maestro Greg Leisz joins the crew at the start of side two, providing the aching notes for the childhood memories that wash through the six-minute-plus When I Was A Kid as he recalls listening to Hank Williams on the Voight family’s Motorola radio. He goes on to confess how he was more a fan of the talking blues which Hank sang under his Luke the Drifter pseudonym rather than the familiar classics. With his voice quivering he also reveals how first hearing Don Howard’s Oh Happy Day (“not that gospel song”) back in 1952 proved to be a songwriting game changer as regards finding happiness through sad songs.
Broken hearts crack and emotions turn inwards on the piano-accompanied When He Goes…He Goes, its line about crazy dreams and the same melancholy giving rise to the following track, Platania’s guitar and Bonnie Sue Walters’ fiddle accompanying Crazy Dreams Crazy.
It ends with You Just Think You Changed Your Mind, a wistful realisation of the false hope of a rekindled relationship, knowing it’s just a return to the lifeboat before another passing vessel comes along, a world of meaning gathered in the pause and sigh between “time will show you other dreams to share and you’ll be happy” and “maybe”.
An album to listen to in the same stillness and hush in which it’s delivered, soaking up the sadness, the hope, the sense of a life lived, it’s a quiet resolution.