Eric Taylor

Eric Taylor may have been born a Midwest Yankee and may these days inhabit the mantle of a Columbus, Texas, gentleman rancher, but his artistic lineage is grounded in Houston. And in the beat generation. And in the blues of Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb and other South Texas masters.

Like that of his contemporaries Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, Taylor's work has always been anchored in the sparest, most wicked blues lines and licks, and deep in the heart of the artistic space occupied by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and John Clellon Holmes. The most intriguing title on his new Great Divide CD (Blue Ruby Records) is "Whorehouse Mirrors and Pawnshop Knives," a sterling example of Taylor's ability to draw on the poetics of both the blues and the beats.

Since suffering a heart attack a while back, Taylor has conquered his worst personal demons and settled down as a supremely confident artist. Raised in the class that included Van Zandt, Clark, Nanci Griffith, Steve Fromholz, Denice Franke, Dana Cooper, Shake Russell, Jack Saunders and Vince Bell, Taylor seems as strong and viable today as he did when his classic Shameless Love arrived on vinyl in 1981 and sent shock waves through the Montrose music community.

Taylor's recent shows have usually included several Van Zandt covers, and on The Great Divide he shows full mastery of Townes's oeuvre with a haunting cover of "Brand New Companion." His revisitation and reinterpretation of "Manhattan Mandolin Blues" becomes a riveting existentialist statement about music, art and the Life. Like Taylor at his best in concert, The Great Divide is sparse, concise and direct. No wonder it hits the bull's-eye. This is what being a Texas singer-songwriter is all about.

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William Michael Smith