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eric taylor & friends – live at the red shack
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live record • retrospective record • celebration of friends

“I have rarely listened to a live album with such a sound ...Eric 's voice on all these so good songs and the sound of the electric guitar create a very unique atmosphere ... honestly this CD will last as something unique, it is magical, it is an extraordinary moment, in the literal meaning of the word. It is pure beauty. Eric, merci for being the artist you are. Your music will be on the air for months and months.” 
– Mike Penard, American Roots 
Music, ISA Radio (France)

European Reviews: click here  –– Northern Sky (UK),  Maverick (UK), Rootstime (BE), Johnny’s Garden, Alt Country (NL),D la Repubblica (Italy) and Buscadero (Italy)

produced by Susan Lindfors Taylor

“I had heard of Eric but had never heard him play. I can honestly say that I've never seen a performer leave so much of himself on stage. He was so honest and his emotions while singing so raw that he could have been alone instead of playing before a room full of strangers.” 
– Tom Henry, Barnes House Concert


Live At The Red Shack Review (UK)

Northern Sky – 3 November 2011

by Allan Wilkinson

Album Review:  Eric Taylor – Live At The Red Shack (Blue Ruby)

I've shamelessly waxed lyrical about Eric Taylor for many years now, based upon the times I've met him, the times I've attended his shows and the times I've popped onto the player any one of the half a dozen studio albums the Texan singer-songwriter has produced over his thirty-year recording career thus far. Not the most prolific recording artist in the history of music by any means but that hardly seems to matter, not when you consider the gems this Houston-based songwriter has written over the years. The mention of Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, Steve Earle and the late Townes Van Zandt would be incomplete without mentioning Eric Taylor in the same breath. An extraordinary storyteller, Taylor takes us on a journey with each of his live performances, comprising engaging stories interspersed with outstanding songs such as Deadwood for instance, the story of the cruel death of Crazy Horse as relayed from a daily newspaper in a sleepy Dakota bar, where the old ones told lies about whiskey on a woman's breath.

For this live album Taylor has assembled a few old friends to help out during an intimate performance, recorded over two nights at the Red Shack, a recording studio in Houston, its walls stained with the 'tit, sweat and balls of all the guitar ghosts that have been coming and going for so many years.' The recording, which runs for a generous 73 minutes, includes songs, stories and monologues, each effectively shaping the American landscape before our very ears, a landscape inhabited by characters real or imagined from Jack Kerouac's Dean Moriarty and the Oglala Lakota chief Crazy Horse to the colourful carnival folks Jim and Jean, the fickle friends, the dearly beloved and the dearly departed; each story told in Taylor's inimitable gravel voice, accompanied by his assured yet delicately picked guitar.

The song introductions are almost as important as the songs themselves. Taylor leads us into his world with a natural yet mesmerising, almost poetic flow of speech that is equally tender and sympathetic yet forceful and determined at the same time; you tend to believe every word. The introduction to Dean Moriarty is probably the album's defining moment.

With contributions from both the former Mrs Eric Taylor Nanci Griffith, as well as the current Mrs Susan Lindfors Taylor, together with Lyle Lovett and Denice Franke, each lending their distinctive voices, Marco Python Fecchio provides some tasteful electric guitar whilst James Gilmer takes to the drum seat. The Susan Lindfors Taylor produced album provides an astonishingly accurate record of an Eric Taylor performance, which will leave you both spellbound and captivated, providing you allow your imagination to take you there. Go on, treat yourself to an hour or so in the company of Eric Taylor and friends; you will feel like you'd been there.

Allan Wilkinson

Northern Sky


Live At The Red Shack Review (UK)

Maverick review – October 2011 – Issue 111

by Arthur Wood


Eric Taylor & Friends


Blue Ruby Music


Taylor and some buddies take a backward glance at his simply stunning catalogue of music


    During late May the irreplaceable Eric Taylor (lead vocal, acoustic guitar) was joined at Rock Romano’s Red Shack, a recording studio in The Heights of Houston, Texas, by a small, hand picked audience and a coterie of long-time musical associates including, in order of aural appearance Marco Python Fecchio (electric guitar) and James Gilmer (percussion), along with vocalists Lyle Lovett, Denice Franke, Nanci Griffith and his wife Susan Lindfors Taylor. The music business at times is akin to a circus, so it’s appropriate that this good old Georgia boy should open with his travelling carney song, Carnival Jim And Jean – in recent years the launch pad staple of Eric’s live shows. Texas, Texas follows. All you need to know of the latter is that: ‘ Texas, Texas is a good ’ol girl man, I think I’ll love her ’til I leave.’ To all intents a Texan, following a four-decade residency, Taylor ain’t gonna ‘leave her’ any time soon.

    Joined by Lyle Lovett they open with Memphis Midnight Memphis Morning one of three Taylor originals that appeared on THROUGH THE DARK NIGHTLY (1976) a compilation released by Fair Retail Records. As in the legendary, still functioning Houston music venue whose presence – as we’ll see – is woven into the very fabric of this collection. Lovett covered the latter title on his tribute collection STEP INSIDE THIS HOUSE (1998). They follow with Tractor Song and Visitors From Indiana, a segue that appeared in precisely that order on Eric’s self-titled sophomore disc. Taylor is a storyteller without equal and these are two of his finest – the former recalls a truly enterprising American president and an entrepreneur who mobilized a nation during wartime, while the latter portrays a family who just happened to be in Dallas on a certain fateful day in late November 1963.

    Anderson Fair, the building, plays host to the Blue Piano on which Eric is joined by Denice Franke. There’s no need to expand on the Jack Kerouac / ON THE ROAD connection, suffice to say Dean Moriarty is another classic tale that has grown in stature since appearing on ERIC TAYLOR (1995). Here, the writer wrings every molecule of emotion and nuance out of this timeless gem. A fifteen-year plus favourite, my jaw still hits the ground hearing it. Taylor’s next guest is one-time spouse, Nanci Griffith, and they vocalize on a quartet of titles. Griffith was vocalist on Peter Cooper’s rendition of Mission Door on his 2008 album of the same name, covered Dollar Matinee on her solo debut THERE’S A LIGHT BEYOND THESE WOODS (1978) and included Deadwood on the live in Houston release ONE FAIR SUMMER EVENING (1988). All’s Fair here! This is the first occasion that Dollar Matinee has appeared on a Taylor recording, and joined by Franke and Susan Lindfors Taylor, they close with Prison Movie – replete with a delightfully layered vocal outro. Part live recording, catalogue retrospective and musical celebration with friends, this disc draws to a close with Good Times Fickle Friend a previously unheard back catalogue nugget that doubtless Taylor will air on his forthcoming UK tour.

Arthur Wood

“ Great CD, really captures how great Eric is when he’s playing live!”    – James Windsor, The Maze

“It sounds terrific! Great production, the sound is perfect for Eric's songs. The performances are right on and the playing, of course, is first class. All around, it's a wonderful introduction for anyone new to Eric's songs and music and a beautiful addition to his catalog for all of us who are quite familiar with his music. I know all these songs by heart of course, but I think if this was the first time I'd ever heard Eric I'd be blown away. I have lots of recordings of Eric live over the years, but this is certainly the best. Great job to you and Eric.”
– Steve Wilkison, Digital Vision Media

“Four years after his last studio album, 2007’s Hollywood Pocketknife, consummate Texas folk storyteller Eric Taylor returns with more than just a live concert recording. Eric Taylor And Friends, Live At The Red Shack was recorded during a two-night stand in May at Houston’s The Red Shack. It features guest appearances from Taylor’s high-profile pals Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Denice Franke, James Gilmer and others. The beautifully recorded 21-song disc also serves as a career retrospective and a warm collaborative effort. You’ll think Taylor and his friends are singing for you in your living room.  For the next best concert experience, catch Taylor on Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. at Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse.” 
– Mario Tarradell, Dallas Morning News

“Over the last several days we’ve been listening over and over again to Eric Taylor’s live at the red shack (Blue Ruby 005).  This is Mr. Taylor’s new offering following 2007’s Hollywood Pocket Knife (Blue Ruby 004).  He invited a few friends and a select audience to join him at the Red Shack in “The Heights” neighborhood of the Bayou City.  In the notes, Taylor reminds us that “the Red Shack ain’t no nightclub, it’s a recording studio.  It’s walls are stained with the tit sweat and balls of all the guitar ghosts that have been coming and going for so many years.”  The notes also include the artist’s comments on each song … a real treat.


The songs are old favorites, including “Memphis Midnight, Memphis Morning,” “Blue Piano,” “Dean Moriarty,” and “Deadwood.”  The invited friends who sing along are also old favorites of Mr. Taylor’s: Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Denice Franke, and Susan Lindfors Taylor.  Their harmonies are sublime.  For musical accompaniment in addition to Taylor’s ’coustic guitar, James Gilmer is on percussion, and Marco Python Fecchio handles electric guitar duties.  This “Python” fella is new to me.  His playing is revelatory – a mix of ambient, bluesy drones.


This is classical – in the best sense of the word – music from an aging hipster, a singer-songwriter at the top of his game.  The 4:35 minute intro to “Dean Moriarty” is alone worth the price of admission.  However, you know me, dear reader, nothing beats “Texas, Texas,” which first turned up in 1998 on resurrect (Koch): “Texas, Texas is a good ol’ girl man/I think I’ll love her ’til I leave.”  After forty years of residency in the Lone Star State, Eric Taylor is still in love.” – Joe in Texas

"There is no sense that Taylor is an imitator. This is a man whose larger-than-life talent sets the agenda, rather than following it...and holds his audience entranced."-- The Press and Journal

Notes & Visions blog – October 2011

by Ace Eshleman

- click here to subscribe to Ace’s Notes & Visions blog! -

Eric Taylor: Working Hard for Everything He’s Got

    The beginning of Eric Taylor’s story is a familiar one. Following high school graduation and a semester or two of college, he left his home town of Atlanta, Georgia and headed west. Taylor sought a career in music, and California beckoned. Like many young people before him, Taylor’s journey took him as far as his money lasted. In his case, Houston, Texas was the place where his funds ran out.

    Houston is not where Taylor’s journey ended, but where it began. It was the 1970’s and the music scene there was flourishing. He immersed himself in it and worked odd jobs to get by. In Houston, Taylor found receptive concert venues and was able to perform his own music. He collaborated with like-minded artists. He incorporated elements of theater into his music. And he began to develop his ability to strike an emotional chord with an audience.

    In 1981 Taylor released his first album, “Shameless Love”. Over the years, six more solo albums followed. Each ensuing release further cemented Taylor’s reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter. His music reveals a genuine sincerity, and his delivery has a ‘been there, done that’ quality which makes even his cover versions of other artists’ material completely believable. Taylor sets the songwriting bar high. Lyrically, he provides a glimpse at the human complexities revealed by simple details, and uses a narrative approach which transports the listener directly into the scene. To become lost in an Eric Taylor song is akin to losing oneself in a classic novel or film.

    Musically, Eric Taylor’s name has become synonymous with some of the best that Texas has to offer. Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith, the late Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle are among his contemporaries from the 1970’s Houston days. More than three decades on, many of those same artists continue to collaborate with Taylor and to record his songs.

    For the past ten years, Susan Lindfors has been Taylor’s companion. A talented singer and songwriter in her own right, her song “A Matter of Degrees” was recorded by Taylor on his “Hollywood Pocketknife” album. Lindfors now manages Taylor’s career, books his performances, updates the website, and promotes his catalog of recordings. It is a more-than-fulltime undertaking and Lindfors handles it with style and a graceful good nature. She often accompanies Taylor on tour and is occasionally coaxed into contributing supporting vocals during his shows. Three years ago, they were married.

    Taylor and his wife live on a ranch in rural Texas, midway between Houston and Austin. They are several miles from the nearest town and content with a slower-paced lifestyle than either city could afford. The landscape is vast and parched, cattle graze nearby, and an occasional hawk swoops down to collect an unfortunate snake as its dinner. It’s the kind of place where the sight of teenaged boys riding horses bareback down the main street on a Saturday night is not such a rare thing. It’s harsh country… stark, beautiful, and dangerous. This is the Texas that the Taylors have chosen to surround themselves with.

    During an interview conducted in his home just a few days before embarking on a 5-week tour of Europe, Taylor reminisced about his past and spoke with satisfaction about his newest album “Eric Taylor and Friends: Live at the Red Shack”. As the unreleased recording played on the sound system, Taylor reacted to the songs and performances. He talked about recording the album, and its significance to him.

    Taylor is always in full control of the space between himself and his audience. Whether his audience consists of one person conversing or hundreds listening, his unpretentious delivery demands one’s attention. He is a man of contrasts, with a large and imposing presence balanced by an innate gentleness. While his speaking voice is slow and deliberate, Taylor’s mind is always abuzz, often cutting himself off in mid-sentence. Taylor also possesses a wry sense of humor and, more than once, slipped a punch line into the conversation leaving the unsuspecting interviewer scrambling to catch up. To be Taylor’s foil for an afternoon was both intimidating and an intense pleasure.

    “Live at the Red Shack” is a retrospective of sorts, not a typical concert recording as its title implies. The record brings together some of Taylor’s most celebrated songs with some of his most celebrated friends. Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and Denice Franke all contributed vocals and Susan Lindfors Taylor produced the album. The songs were recorded live during two days of performances at Rock Romano’s Red Shack, a recording studio in Houston. An audience of about twenty invited guests was present for each night of recording.

    Recording a retrospective album gave Taylor the opportunity to revisit and explore some of his older material, and to record it with a fresh mindset. “I wanted to hear the songs as they got older, as they developed,” he said. Indeed, many of the songs on the album have evolved considerably since they were written. “It’s like watching a kid grow up,” Taylor observed with a knowing smile.

    “Eric Taylor and Friends: Live at the Red Shack” has no shortage of highlights, and to choose a stand-out track or two would be to diminish the others. There are, however, several songs which are impossible not to mention. Lyle Lovett performs with Taylor on three songs. One of them, “Memphis Midnight, Memphis Morning” appears on Lovett’s 1998 album “Step Inside this House”. Lovett’s precise approach to the song contrasts with Taylor’s more laid back style. The two artists complement one another brilliantly, their interaction intuitive and effortless. Denice Franke’s version of Taylor’s “Blue Piano”, is performed here as a gorgeous duet. Franke’s vocals grace many of Taylor’s early recordings and the familiarity between the two performers is evident. Nanci Griffith sings on several tracks as well. Taylor and Griffith were once husband and wife, and although their marriage dissolved nearly three decades ago, mutual respect for one another and the music remains. Their version of Taylor’s “Dollar Matinee”, which Griffith recorded on her debut album, reveals a confident and straightforward rapport.

    Some of the most moving performances on “Eric Taylor and Friends: Live at the Red Shack” are those which feature Taylor without an accompanying singer. “Dean Moriarty” in particular, is a vivid, ten-plus-minute journey inspired by Jack Kerouac. Taylor delivers the song with the conviction of one who has lived every note and demonstrates that his star shines just as brightly when performing on his own.

    Outside of Taylor’s presence, there is one constant throughout the recording, the electric guitar of Marco “Python” Fecchio. The Italian guitarist often accompanies Taylor while touring in Italy, and traveled to Houston to be part of the recording sessions. His instinctive instrumentation and use of mood and tone provided a cohesive element which enriched the already memorable performances.

    “The amazing thing about this is,” Taylor began, recounting Fecchio’s accompaniment, “we never sat down and talked about (the songs). It all turned out exactly how it was on the record… I trust him,” he said, of the guitarist. Taylor went on to explain the importance he places on the opinions and advice of others. “I think you’ve got to trust people more than yourself. I do,” he acknowledged. “I love producing my own records, but I also like having a really good engineer, like Rock (Romano, owner of The Red Shack), and having someone like Susan who can say ‘no.’“ Taylor gestured with a shake of his head, then glanced across the room and directed a contented smile at his wife.

    Susan Lindfors Taylor has spent countless hours in the studio with her husband, and is familiar with his material and recording process. “Live at the Red Shack” was her first experience as producer. Taylor put her in complete control of the project and, she remembers, “the first day going in, I felt really unsure.” However, she soon found the confidence to make her voice heard when it needed to be. When asked about the rewards and drawbacks of producing, Lindfors Taylor focused on the rewards. “I guess the most rewarding thing was realizing that I could do that,” she said, with satisfaction.

    “Eric Taylor and Friends: Live at the Red Shack” is dedicated to someone very important in Taylor’s life, Dr. Bud Frazier. Frazier is a heart surgeon in Houston, primarily known for performing heart transplants and other delicate procedures. Taylor contends that the new album would not have been possible had it not been for Frazier’s skill and care the previous year. During the summer of 2010, Frazier performed triple by-pass heart surgery on Taylor. By all accounts, it was a successful procedure, but also one which requires a great deal of rehabilitation, physical therapy, and patience.

    Defying conventional wisdom, and the advice of countless well-meaning friends, Taylor recalled, “I left for a tour. Eight weeks after the surgery, I was on the road in Europe,” he said defiantly. “I had an 8 ½ week tour in Europe.”  The tour was planned well in advance of his surgery, he’s toured Europe every year since 1996, and, Taylor exclaimed, “I wasn’t not goin’!”.

    Although Taylor’s behavior may appear reckless to some, he took his condition very seriously. He followed the advice of his healthcare team and worked hard to recover. “By the time I left (for Europe) I was walking five miles a day,” he said, explaining that even as the late-summer Texas heat made walking outdoors impractical, he logged the miles by lapping the rooms inside his home.

    Taylor’s wife Susan, a constant source of support during his recovery, was in favor of his decision to fulfill the tour obligations in Europe as well. “I didn’t think he shouldn’t go,” she said. “I mean, I was for it. I was worried, for sure! But I know how strong he is. And actually,” she added, “it was a really hard thing to do but I think it helped his recovery because I think he felt really frustrated (being home) and like kind of a burden. And so, it’s like, ‘go back to work, and do it’.”

    Recalling his time in Europe following heart surgery, Taylor confessed, “I can tell you that there were several times that I thought, this is probably not a good idea.” He attributes much of the success of that tour to the help he received from others, specifically his road manager. “They had it set up where all I had to do was walk from back stage. I was taken care of so well. It really didn’t have that much to do with me, I think. I worked hard.” And, he admitted upon reflection, “I think I probably made some mistakes by putting too many shows together in a row.”

Eric Taylor performing in Texas - 2006

    Following the European tour and several months of concerts and festivals in the United States, Taylor set about his next recording project and seized upon the idea of a retrospective album. He was elated that every artist he invited accepted his invitation to be part of “Eric Taylor and Friends”. Now that the project is complete, he muses on the satisfaction he has gained, not only from rerecording some of his older material, but from sharing that experience with Lovett, Franke, and Griffith.

    Even though Taylor has been writing songs for several decades, he admitted there are times when he struggles to find the words and communicate ideas. He recounted a recent conversation with his daughter when she observed of his latest project, “’I think you need to do this (album), so that you can move on’.” And, he confirmed, “I think she’s right from that standpoint. I’ve already written a song since the record, and I’m working on two others.” By looking back he was able to move forward.

    Taylor continued, “I think what helps me is, if I get stuck on something, I’ll go back and go through a lot of old material that has never been made into songs. They’re just pages and pages and pages of ideas… I can see how words can be put together in a way that interests me,” he explained.

    What others call ‘writer’s block’, Taylor sees as just part of the process. “I don’t think anybody’s a natural,” he observed. “Ain’t nobody a natural, man. Musician, writer, prize fighter, there ain’t no naturals. You work for it, and you work hard for it. I don’t wanna be no natural. I don’t. I think you work for everything you get. I have one job and one job only, and that’s to write the next best line. That don’t come naturally, you know… I get weary with these, ‘Oh, it just comes to me’. It’s the ‘Aw, shucks…’” Taylor’s voice trailed off in exasperation. He soon continued, however, “You work at what you do. It’s work. And if you’re gonna call yourself a writer, don’t talk to me about writer’s block or anything else.”

As the interview drew to a close Taylor’s attention shifted once more. He leaned forward in his chair and glanced at the screen of the muted tv set which had been flickering in the background throughout the afternoon. A combination cooking-variety show appeared to be underway and he wondered aloud, “What is this, another Republican debate?” Again, the wry smile crossed his face and he settled confidently into his chair.

    Taylor’s new album, “Eric Taylor and Friends; Live at the Red Shack” is set for release in the US in December 2011. It will be available through his website and, as always, at his concerts.



Eric Taylor’s web site:

Click here for tour dates:

Eric Taylor – solo albums:

Shameless Love – 1981

Eric Taylor – 1995

Resurrect – 1998

Scuffletown – 2001

The Kerrville Tapes – 2003

The Great Divide – 2005

Hollywood Pocketknife – 2007

Eric Taylor and Friends: Live at the Red Shack – 2011 (December)

** Copyright © 2011 – Annette “Ace” Eshleman **


Buddy Magazine - December 2011

by Tom Geddie

NEW! Video clip of the recording of Live At The Red Shack.
(Scroll down, it’s just below the CD cover)

“I’ve listened to this CD at least 20 of the most extraordinary CDs I’ve ever heard. And the booklet describing the ideas that inspired the songs is a songwriter’s ‘must-read’.” – John in Glen Oaks, NY

“Eric and Susan.....just took an hour and sat and gave Red Shack a good, serious listen....I have bought quite a bit of music this year and I would have to say this is the absolute best of the last year or two....I was captivated by it....Eric, your guitar playing always amazes me but this was as good as it gets and the vocals (with or without Formidable Friends) were dead on. Susan, the production was a perfect fit (not to mention what goes on behind the scenes that us listeners have no idea about)....I mean this sincerely and am not just blowing smoke....this is my favorite album of the year by far.”
– Lynn in Austin
Also available now at Village Records

“Winter is often a time for looking back and taking stock of things done and not done over the course of a lifetime. That’s where this album comes in for veteran singer, songwriter Taylor. What he has done is invite some long time friends to join him on an intimate recording session that revisits some his older material through today’s prism. The results couldn’t be more magical. This single disc, edited down from two in studio live sessions, gets it just right. Joining him are Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Denice Franke and wife Susan Lindfors. The guests don’t get in the way at all, they simply make the journey all the sweeter.”
– Bill Lavery, Village Records

“I’m so glad you used that funky iPhone picture. It looks like the centerfold of a Velvet Underground album. Peace.” 
– Rock(y), Red Shack Studio

3rd Coast Music - January 2012

by John Conquest

Houston Chronicle - Zest

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eric Taylor put his heart into new project

By Andrew Dansby, Staff Writer

Published 10:41 a.m., Friday, January 6, 2012


Eric Taylor thought a lot about time long before triple bypass heart surgery allowed him to keep writing and singing about it. His songs aren't necessarily about sands trickling from top to bottom of an hourglass, but they still reflect its forward push and sometimes an attempt to preserve something precious and passed.

He ambles through his home, just outside of Weimar, wearing a faded black shirt bearing Warren Zevon's famous quote about knowing his ride was here: "Enjoy every sandwich." He points proudly to his 1939 Remington typewriter, restored, functional and beautiful. He holds up a replica of a 1949 Mercury, the same car that Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady put on the road, inspiring Kerouac's famous novel which in turn inspired Taylor's song Dean Moriarty, released 15 years ago.

Last year, Taylor revisited the song adding to it a long story that spoke to its beginnings, a story of cars and youth and freedom. Taylor revisited many of his other songs during a two-day session, recording them in a live-in-the-studio setting at Rock Romano's Red Shack Studio in Houston.

Taylor no longer calls Houston home, but the album feels of Houston, built on songs and stories he wrote when he lived here. Several of his old friends, peers and fans show up to sing: Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Denice Franke. Taylor provided the songs, the spirit, the stories and the sauce. "A few people probably had too good a time," he says. "And we had to say, 'No, it's time to go home, now."

Taylor emerged from the sweltering studio with something that preserves a piece of Houston music history that sprung up in Montrose in the 1970s. Live at the Red Shack runs about an hour, with an emphasis on the music. But cameras were also rolling and there are more than six hours of performances and exchanges and conversations captured, too.

"It's about as live as you can get as far as I'm concerned, but it's not a concert album," Taylor says, sipping a glass of wine and looking out the window at the secluded green expanse around his home. Hogs, deer and cattle can all be counted on to pass by at some point, unlike his time in Montrose about which Taylor says, "I didn't see any deer there unless they were drug induced."

The goal was to recall those sometimes-hazy days in and around Anderson Fair, give them context and update them. "We wanted to be able to catch conversations," says Taylor, who admits that one attendee didn't realize how close he was to a microphone when he criticized another singer for not knowing the words to a song. Media wasn't invited, Taylor says, "because I felt like it would change things too much."

"I don't think any of us went in with the idea of trying to recapture anything, I think that would be a really big mistake," he says. "I was trying to make something new. It wasn't exactly a reunion. I see these people all the time. But it was like, 'catch what we got now.' " He says his own health scare played some part in coming up with the idea, which he executed with his wife, Susan Lindfors Taylor, a singer-songwriter who produced the album. The only newcomer invited to the session was Dr. Bud Frazier, the heart surgeon who gave Taylor a second wind that Zevon never had.

A lucky landing

Taylor is 62 now, a little gruff but a venerable figure from a boom time for live music in Houston. His arrival was dumb luck. A Georgia native, he sold a guitar hoping the money would get him to California. Asked if he had any plans once he arrived on the west coast he replies, flatly, "No." He ended up in Houston and thought he'd spend the night in Hermann Park, only to get run off. He eventually found work at the Family Hand washing dishes and bought a cheap guitar, but says, "I had no idea what I was walking into."

His first week in Houston he took in shows by Lightnin' Hopkins and Townes Van Zandt. Eventually he'd play bass for Hopkins and open shows for Van Zandt. "I was such a rube," he says, laughing. He recalls the time he approached Guy Clark and congratulated him. Clark had been playing Fire and Rain at his shows, and Taylor had heard another version of the song on the radio. "I said, 'There's this cat doing a copy of your song and it's playing all over the place, it's a good version too,'" Taylor says. "And he said, 'What the (expletive) are you talking about?' He glared at me, said, 'You dumb (expletive)' and walked away.

"A guy told me it was a James Taylor song, and I said, 'Who's James Taylor?' "

With Clark, Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker as mentors, Taylor and a group of like-minded songwriters set about making their art, with periods of study and growing pains. He says he and singer-songwriter Vince Bell would get together and listen to music every morning and share some of their songs. "It'd be me saying, 'Does this sound too much like Townes?' And him saying, 'Of course.' ... 'Does this sound too much like Zevon?' "

Houston's booming music scene

But he likens the scene to Greenwich Village in New York in the '60s. "You could go see people like Big Mama Thornton or Lightnin' any night of the week. You could go to Irene's and listen to Johnny Winter until six in the morning." He and Griffith, whom he married in 1976 (they divorced six years later) would play their own sets and then go out and hear live music until sunrise. She covered his Dollar Matinee on her 1978 album, There's a Light Beyond These Woods, and added harmonies to his 1981 debut album, Shameless Love.

Fourteen years passed before Taylor released another album, a period during which he struggled with some of the excesses common to his chosen line of work. He named that album Eric Taylor, fitting as it was a new start. And his skills as an observer and storyteller had grown in that time. He became a master of efficiency, using compact phrases and loaded words to put across fully realized stories on Dean Moriarty, Whooping Crane, Hemingway's Shotgun and Deadwood.

Taking lessons from Taylor

Three years later one of Taylor's students, Lovett, included Taylor's Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning on an album of songs written by his friends and heroes. Lovett remembers seeing Taylor play Anderson Fair as far back as 1977. "Eric was a real teacher for me," Lovett says. "He and a few other people like Vince Bell were the keepers of that flame in terms of Townes' and Guy's songwriting ethic. I learned so much from the way he structured a song, what to put in, what to leave out. I'd try to learn his songs within days of hearing them."

Two years ago, Lovett recorded Taylor's Whooping Crane and his upcoming album includes Taylor's Understand You.

On Red Shack Lovett sings Memphis Midnight/Memphis Morning as a duet with Taylor and adds backing vocals to Tractor Song and Visitors From Indiana.

The two work well together, though they're a study in contrasts. Taylor ragged and rough, Lovett more the perfectionist. With Red Shack Taylor suggests he sees songs as malleable. He mentions Whooping Crane, a song he wrote years ago only to change a line as he got older. "I felt silly being 62 years old and saying, 'They thought I was uptight, but I wasn't,' " he says. "Uptight, it's just a word that has moved on for me." When Lovett recorded the song he used the original line. "It fits him, that's him. Lyle is just so precise about how he does things. And he did it in a way that's fine with me."

Only one rule

But Taylor's voice has also changed due to intubation during his heart surgery. "Lyle would say, 'That's not how we did it on the last record,' " he says. "And I'd tell him that record was made in 1995; I sing a little different now. He said, 'Yes. I noticed that.' "

Taylor says he still abides by something Clark told him. "Guy Charles put it best: 'The only rule we had was there ain't no rules,' " he says. "In Houston, the writers didn't draw any lines in the sand."

The inspiration can come from travel, but just as easily it can come from one of the many books in his office with its antique typewriter, view of a green expanse or Zevon ephemera. "This is where you kind of come and sit and look at things and think," he says. "And go after it."

Nearly five years have passed since going after it resulted in a new set of songs. Taylor plans to play some shows for Red Shack - he'll be at 14 Pews on Saturday. And then he'll look ahead.

"I always wanted to wait till I had a big bag of songs and chose the ones I wanted on the record," he says. "But I don't think I'm going to do that this time. I haven't had a chance to think and rethink these songs so I think it'll be a little different. I want a little blood on the bone on this record."


M Magazine

Eric Taylor and Friends

Live at the Red Shack

Blue Ruby Music & Records

By Peter Cooper

The temptation is to define import by influence, and even by that definition Eric Taylor is a heavy guy. Taylor’s guitar style, a piano-like blend of round, ringing low notes and wistful highs, may be heard within Nanci Griffith’s and Lyle Lovett’s finger-picking, and each of those Texas-reared troubadours have covered Taylor’s songs.

Griffith and Lovett both appear on Live at the Red Shack, an album recorded in front of 20 invited studio audience members, and one that presents Taylor as a singular, remarkable artist. Most of the time, Tayor growls portraits of the dangerous and the endangered: “You can learn to cry in the cradle, you can learn to lie in jail,’ he sings. But Taylor always finds a heart in the darkness, as in “Visitors From Indiana,” a song less about the Kennedy assassination than about the slight, sad details of human connection: “I wonder what that girl is gonna do now/ Left her roses in the car, God knows.”

Atlanta Music Guide – January 24, 2012

Eric Taylor
Live at the Red Shack
Blue Ruby Music

By Al Kaufman

Eric Taylor is like that cool uncle you had. You know, the one who lived out in the woods in a cabin he built by himself. He talked a little saltier than your mom approved of, he didn’t care if you flipped through the nudie magazines he didn’t bother to try to hide, he’d tell you stories about improper things your mom did as a child, and, most importantly, he taught you a few chords on the guitar.

Although Taylor didn’t put out his first album until 1981, he’s been writing songs since long before. In 1970, he left Atlanta to try to make it in California. He got as far as Houston, where he ran into some songwriters with names like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. He worshipped them and they, in turn, thought he was a dumb kid. But Taylor kept working at it and became a gifted songwriter and storyteller in the same vein as his mentors. Ex-wife Nanci Griffith covered his “Dollar Matinee” on her debut . Lyle Lovett, a student of Taylor’s, covered his “Memphis Midnight, Memphis Morning” on his covers CD, Step Inside this House. Both Lovett and Griffith show up on Live at Red Shack to sing their respective songs (and some others) with Taylor on this, his live retrospective. Their harmonies are full of love, warmth and gratitude.

What Taylor has done on Red Shack is assemble friends (Lovett, Griffith, Denice Franke, Italian guitar virtuoso Marco Python Fecchio, and current wife Susan Lindfors Taylor) together with a handpicked audience of 20 or so guests (for whom he also bought drinks) to play some of his favorite songs that he wrote.

And while these songs are about dollar matinees and the death of JFK (beautifully told through the eyes of “Visitors from Indiana”), this doesn’t feel like some ancient guy rehashing the good old days, but rather a gifted storyteller spinning mesmerizing yarns. Taylor’s rambling intro into “Dean Moriarty” talks of the year 1957 (“It was a good year for cars. A bad year for haircuts, but a good year for cars.”) and includes school segregation, Jack Kerouac, and trying to get girls to take a ride in his car.

Taylor may sing of the past, of bar rooms and hay fields and even Johnny Cash, but his characters want the same things we do. They want love and redemption. They want some fun and happiness. They want respect and sometimes even a little vengeance. Taylor’s people are just like us, it’s just that their tales are exquisitely told.

Eric Taylor plays Eddie’s Attic Saturday, January 28 with Freddie Vanderford


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