Guitar & Pen
April 16, 2000
Recently I had the pleasure of catching Vermont singer-songwriter Louise Taylor (whose new record, Written In Red co-produced by Peter Galway is due out next month) at the Guitar & Pen Café in the Bronx, New York, and at a house concert the next day in my home. I have sat close to some extremely talented musicians in my years of writing about music and attending concerts, but never have I seen someone so adept at blending voice and guitar with such grace and articulation as Ms. Taylor. Jim Olsen, co-founder of Signature Sounds states, "When we started the label in 95, Louise was the first artist we wanted to sign. It continues to amaze me that she hasnt broken through to a larger audience. She is simply one of the most soulful and original folkies out there. Shes the kind of artist best seen in intimate situations." Indeed! The sound from her custom-built Froggy Bottom guitar was so rich and resonant during the house concert, I had to look to see if she plugged into an amp I didnt know about. But as incredible as that guitar sound was, it was Ms. Taylors fingering and fretwork that completely overwhelmed me. She plays in a wide range of tunings ala David Wilcox and Greg Greenway, (including some I never heard of)one of which she admits is "difficult to get into and even more difficult to get out of." As a result, her movements and positions up and down the neck were intriguing and complex to say the least. She would also strum, finger, ring, slide, bend, scrape, pluck, hammer, and pump the strings for effects that punctuated and italicized the phrases in her songs. I could say Ive yet to see a better woman guitarist anywhere. But the truth is I think she is one of the best guitarists Ive seen anywhere, male or female. Certainly her playing is unique; as much a part of her appeal as that sultry voice and intelligent, poetic writing. The new record has some amazing new songs on it, but one in particular, "His Hands" (written for her luthier husband, Michael Millard) has hooks that just pierce your heart. I almost lost it completely, listening to her play and sing this song both in the café and in my living room. Equally beguiling is the records title cut, "Written In Red," a soulful ballad that showcases Ms. Taylors eminent strengths as a singer and musician. Her voice here reminded me of the great jazz/blues singer Esther Phillips. Ms. Taylor covered songs from all four of her records, from the percussive and funky "Angelee" to the bluesy "Too Tired," as well as "Dangerous" and "Roll Away Car." My personal favorite was the hauntingly beautiful Texas lament, "Blue Norther." Some day the world will indeed catch on to Louises very special talent, but I suggest discovering Taylor for yourself post haste. I recommend her newestWritten In Red, but Ride is also a small masterpiece. Like most art of real substance, Louise takes more than a casual listen to appreciate. All the subtle details and rich idiosyncrasies in her work begin to reveal themselves with each repeated listen, not unlike a great vintage claret. Kudos to Jim Olsen and Signature Sounds for bringing this wonderful woman to us. Ralph DiGennaro
Look for a review of Written In Red, in Issue 14 of the Music Matters Review.