Taylor Scott Band – All We Have
12 songs/45 minutes
Denver, CO based Taylor Scott is a guitarist, singer and songwriter of the soulful variety. Scott combines his killer guitar chops and strong, emotionally deep vocals with an ultra fluid and flexible band to make this eclectic, well produced and performed record, All We Have. Although Scott has real deal Blues cred from working with Colorado hypno-Blues legend Otis Taylor, Scott’s music, and specifically his songwriting, is more of a variety 12-pack ranging from complex layered imagery to plain spoken simplistic observationalism in the Modern Country vein.
Before critique of the songwriting, it is important to note this record is professionally performed and produced. Credited to the Taylor Scott Band and produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, this record has a great band quality in spite of, or more aptly in service to, featuring the band leader. Jon Wirtz on keys, Chris Harris on bass and Lem Williams on drums are the band and play with flexibility and taste. Horns on a bunch of tracks are arranged by trombonist Mark “Speedy” Gonzales and executed with help from Josh Levy on bari-sax and Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet. Percussion is supplied by Jesse Brooke and the bass chair is filled on one track by Ben Rubin. Harmonica by Nic Clark and background vocals by Sarah Morris Wirtz and Steve Watkins fill out the record.
The songs on All We Have take two divergent trips. These trips are defined by how Scott sings and his song craft. The first trip’s songs are soulful testifiers that are dense with imagery. These are the most effective. The breathtaking 1-2 punch of openers “Somebody Told Me” and “Curiosity” are complex highly sophisticated flip-sides of Taylor’s muse. “Somebody” is stanky slinky R&B groove in which Scott ponders life and meaning with a big rock chorus. “Curiosity” is a hopped up Alt-Country hoedown resplendent with horn blasts. This could be an outtake from Wilco’s Being There, with Scott showing his ability to observe and process poetically what he sees in the world through a skewed modern traditionalist lens. “Hair of Indigo” is a chilled out Trip Hop rundown with guest guitarist Henry Garza from Los Lonely Boys cuttin’ heads with Scott.
The second trip of All We Have is songs of tight near spoken word observations on modern, often small town, life that are clear and unfussy. “Clearance Bin,” “Salted Watermelon” and “Carry Me Away” have the phrasing, arrangement and imagery of Modern Country. Scott does not let his vocal range show on these songs, not that every song has to be a melismatic scorcher, but the vocals are quite staid in comparison to other tracks. The music is also less interesting, more plain and straightforward. On these tracks Scott still plays inventive and surprising guitar. The great slide lead on “Carrying,” the sticky solo on “Watermelon” and the stringy lead over “Bin” all make for enjoyable rides with Scott’s stamp on them. But, this vein of songwriting doesn’t best suit Scott’s talent.
The song “Wishing Well” is a groovy hopper and brings the 2 divergent trips together. Scott uses that more monochromatic vocal approach to the verses but colors the tails of the phrases with a little Blue. The big soaring chorus is catchy and the image of the wishing well works. This reviewer would like more of the deep grooved R&B, but “Well” is a possible future way forward for Taylor Scott Band, blending the 2 trips, and strengthening the latter. Every musician has to follow their own journey and chase their sound, it is exciting to hear. Taylor Scott is on that journey and it is real fun to bear witness to on All We Have.