Here Comes Lonely
James Michael Taylor: Here Comes Lonely Review by Jenni Mansfield Peal A great album is more than a collection of good or even great songs. Sometimes you find an album composed of songs that work so effectively together, unfolding one into the next, that as a listener you are taken on a journey and told a story that uplifts you with the satisfaction only a complete work of art can. James Michael Taylor's 2008 release Here Comes Lonely is not an overtly storied collection, like Willie Nelson's Redheaded Stranger or Pink Floyd's The Wall. The cohesion of it's songs is more like that of Jackson Brown's Running On Empty. Their details create a sense of place and time, a period of time in a man's life, in which events take place. The songs are sharply sensorial in their details ('It was his birthday - he got a bicycle...' 'There's a ring in the ash tray of a blue '95 Bronco - In the driveway with a sign that says FOR SALE ...'). In good songwriting, details are circumstantial and serve the music of a piece in transporting the listener to an understanding. Although the listener is introduced early in this album to reappearing characters, and though it is clear that the writer is very close to the events from which the songs emerged, Lonely's songs transcend self-pity and self-absorption. The album is not a work of autobiography. It is a complete musical expression encompassing a diverse use of style and approach in the revelation of a profound human experience: a tortuous marital divorce. The opening song of love that introduces an idea of doubt ('... I'm not certain - Is that your early morning face ...') and romantic idealism ('... I can see back to your childhood - sometimes the pictures last all day ...'), 'Ageless Angel,' may strike the listener as trite on the first, shallow, listening. But as with all of the songs of Lonely, when reconsidered after hearing the whole album it's words reveal subtle meanings and it's music stands out like a challenge to the complex emotions to come. 'Potter's Field' begins themes of anger and violence by creating a fantasy scenario. Taylor's singing voice is mature and unusual: he's able to achieve vocally what more perfect singers may only create with effect boxes. He is able to use several voices in a single song, and his musical arrangement of vocal elements on the album is exceptional. Throughout Lonely Taylor uses his voice courageously and with sometimes agonizing subtlety. 'Here Comes Lonely' is sung in a way that communicates the numbness of unlikely, unproven hope: love rubbed raw. Songs follow that explore rage, confusion, the desolation of living with the results of mistakes, fantasies of retribution, maniacal hilarity, and even one, 'Quiver,' that dissects the nature of cruelty. What does it mean to be cruel? Is there a payoff? When the listener reaches the wistful, pondering love song 'I Do,' Lonely's transcending theme is revealed: acceptance. Not acceptance of pain or of any situation, but the idea of acceptance. This is done with heartrending directness: 'Why would I cry for a girl like you? But I DO. Yes, I DO. Words that we said when we were wed - I DO. I DO.' The listener cannot help but wonder if this unconditional love and acceptance has been lost on the beloved simply because she can't believe that she is worthy of it - does she accept and love herself this way? Could her marriage have a chance if she didn't? And that's what makes this a great album, a masterpiece that I have learned from and will keep listening to. It makes me come back again and again. Nothing is wasted in this collection - no idea, no motif, no musical phrase and certainly no time. After ever-more violent expressions and scenarios - some ironic and some raw as a pork chop - Here Comes Lonely culminates in a sublime poetic moment: 'Peggy's Gone.' This song is so simply beautiful that I will go no further to describe it except to say that in turning '... I DO ...' to '... but then I would ...' Taylor takes us to the discovery of true acceptance that is love. There is more to say about this album. The musical qualities are nowhere disappointing and everywhere engaging. Though fiercely independent and humbly released, the recording and mastering qualities are first-rate. A lyric sheet is generously included. Taylor notes his one co-writer (Dallas' Rick Babb) and other influences and adds a brief description of how this collection emerged. Here Comes Lonely is a masterpiece because in it's songs a fine and truly honest writer and musician has not spared his own feelings or those of his listener. He has transported them to a genuine experience of wholeness. JMP ..... In the mail yesterday, I received James Michael Taylor's new release HERE COMES LONELY, which he says in his liner notes is a collection from some of his other albums. The notes also mention how one of JMT's fellow songwriters of Fort Worth says that JMT writes two or three brilliant songs per album and so on this one they have collected some of 'the best'... well, that is ok, I guess... especially for the casual listener... maybe. But to me, it misses the whole point of what JAMES MICHAEL TAYLOR music is all about... JMT is an artist that uses his medium as a way of expression, he is not 'merely' a singer/musician. The songs on his albums tell stories and express a wide spectrum of Life... that is why I am such a fan. The best example I can use (although there are many) is the song GRANDMA'S SHAMPOO, which I am sure would not make the cut on albums that are solely intended as 'the best'. Yet, when I listen to GRANDMA'S SHAMPOO it touches me very deeply... it is a song that takes the listener into that deep place inside of all contemplative people... The place I call 'The Why?' To think such a song as GRANDMA'S SHAMPOO could have been left off an album and thus missed by me... is a very sad thought. So, old friend, since I personally do not think you can put out to many releases, (I do like NAMEDROPPER) you go ahead and put together and offer some of your work in 'best' albums... but damn it, ol' son... don't you dare stop putting out your 'regular' albums, too! ....JohnQ.