CD Review: Ben Taylor, Listening

It is impossible to review an album by, much less mention Ben Taylor without mentioning that he is the genetic spawn of James Taylor and Carly Simon. That's a lot of pressure and expectations to live up to. Some, like a petulant teenager, would reject his parents' proclivities and try to establish himself in the most opposite way possible. Have you heard that Tom Hanks's son is a rapper? Anyway, I digress.

Ben Taylor has seemed to embrace his lineage. He's toured with his father and embraced the folk sentiments of the elder Taylor. But this isn't your mother's folk music. Taylor's folk isn't the simple sensitive singer-songwriter with just a guitar and their feelings. This is well-produced and has a backing band, making many of the songs ready for crossover to the pop world.

I come at this review with the bias of not enjoying any folk music, and the first few chords made me fall back into it, but after a listen of more than one song, I can appreciate the musicality. Although I would classify this as pop-folk, a genre I may have just invented, Taylor is not afraid to infuse a variety of genres into this one album, including soul, reggae, and more radio-friendly pop-rock. Exploring so many on one album has a lot of potential to be like a cover of classics, but Taylor's songwriting has the cleanness and confidence to do it, and he molds the genres to fit into his folky sound.

"You Could Be Mine," the standout track, is not a cover of the Guns N' Roses song. It's a reggae-infused song that makes me feel like I am sipping a cocktail at a Sandals Resort. In a good way, of course. "Dirty" (not a Christina Aguilera cover) uses some electronic beats and a sampling of a brass band, and some attempts at rap. It's a big departure from the other songs, but it's catchy and brings some energy to the midpoint of a fairly mellow album. "Oh Brother" makes good use of a funk bass line and soul that is a tip of the hat to soul.

I was not, however, struck with any bombs of lyrical genius. Much of the lyrics, I surmised were about love and attraction to someone. The song "Worlds Are Made Of Paper" tries to be the song with a deeper meaning, however the lyrics "Worlds are made of paper/And time is only time/Nothing lasts forever/'Cause people change their minds" isn't exactly deep or thoughtful. The negative of shallow lyrics is canceled out by the good production and confident experimentation with different genres.

If he isn't already, Papa James should be proud of his son's creative endeavors. Taking the famous parents out of the equation, this album clearly shows musicality and confidence, but is easily forgettable after a listen. This won't be heralded as a classic, but as compared to the folk genre, this adds some energy and new elements that make it ready for crossover. Let's put it this way: if you played this at a party, it's inoffensive to music lovers of any genre, but your Indigo Girl/Jack Johnson types would be the ones to tell you to turn it up.

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