Sean Taylor’s CD The Path Into Blue, due for release on April 12th 2019, is very much an album of its time. Which is to say it’s grounded, lyrically, in most of the things that are wrong with 21st Century Britain and the world in general. Not a lot of moon and June here, then, and not much comfort for those who prefer their music to be relaxing rather than thought-provoking. Nor does Sean Taylor wrap his politics in vague, genteel metaphor: there is no mistaking his views on topics like Brexit, racism and Donald Trump.
Here’s the track listing, all songs having been written by Sean Taylor:
- ‘This Is England’ isn’t directly tied to the Shane Meadows movie of the same name, though there’s some overlap in the subject matter. In fact, the track manages to reference most or all of the concerns addressed in more detail in the other songs on the CD. And there are probably enough issues raised to power songs for several more albums. Interestingly, this is less a song than a poem/rap – as the song itself says “…all music is free / Spotify this poem for you and me” – set against a Stevie Wonder-ish riff. A little like Gil Scott-Heron with a London
- ‘Lampedusa’ takes its name and topic from the Italian island which has become well-known as an entry point into Europe for refugees from Africa. The instrumental intro and outro have echoes of the Mediterranean, but the song itself takes us somewhere less sunny: “Where did compassion go? / It died a long time ago“.
- ‘Grenfell’ draws a chilling connection between the tragedy of the fire and social inequality: “… the working class get zero hours / And a place to die in Grenfell Towers“. While the vocals are laidback, allowing the words to speak for themselves, there’s a raw, effective lead guitar on the playout.
- ‘The Last Man Standing (Merry Christmas)’ is a bleaker view of the season than you’re likely to hear over the Tannoy in Tesco or from the salvation army, despite brass band effects and the sardonic choir introduced into the latter part of the arrangement.
- ‘Little Donny’ is a harsh verbal portrait of the 45th president of the United States and the societal sickness that, for many, he represents. The sax intro from Joe Morales gives this a jazz/blues feel. The backing vocals from Stephanie Daulong and Jaimee Harris give the hook particular emphasis.
- ‘A Cold Wind Blows’ considers the plight of the homeless, with Sean’s nylon-strung lead guitar contrasted with Henry Senior’s pedal steel. Interesting.
- ‘Take It Down To The Mainstream’ takes a sideswipe at mainstream pop music and the cult of celebrity. Ironically, it’s a rather effective rock-soaked arrangement that wouldn’t sound out of place on Radio 1.
- ‘Tobacco And Whisky’ is a sombre song about alcoholism and binge drinking. Probably my favourite track.
- I don’t know the exact significance of the title ‘Number 49’, but this bluesy track is clearly about addiction.
- ‘The Other Side Of Hurt’ is a structurally simple song about depression, with the bulk of the accompaniment carried by Sean’s electric piano and lead guitar.
- ‘In The Name Of God’, by contrast, features a more ambitious, ballad-ish arrangement, and addresses the horrific contemporary issues engendered by religious extremism in a lyric that somehow makes its point all the more effectively in its brevity and understatement, accentuated by the quasi-gospel feel of the playout.
- ‘The Path Into Blue’ is also about depression, though it’s not as bleak as that might make it sound. “You will only find what is true / When you survive / The path into blue“.
There’s something slightly nostalgic about the way this set addresses contemporary life and politics full on, but rather than the taking on the folky/acoustic approach of most of the ‘protest’ singers of the 1960s, Sean Taylor adopts a husky, jagged vocal delivery, and tunes that have more of a rock shape and instrumentation than we mostly hear even from the more recent singers of songs of social commentary.
The album was recorded in Texas, and while none of the musicians contributing to the album are familiar to me by name, they do an excellent job. If I’ve made it sound rather ‘worthy’, don’t be put off: there’s plenty of musicality here to leaven (and even support) the social awareness of the lyrics.
Artist’s website: www.seantaylorsongs.com
‘Grenfell’ – official video: