Review: Sean Taylor – Love Against Death

Posted on: Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012

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Sean Taylor – Love Against Death

(SGO Records: STCD 5)

This acclaimed album is a brooding, highly politicised collection of songs, some with a definite bluesy feel, all delivered with the firm confidence of old-fashioned protest song.  Che Guevara and Arthur Scargill are among those namechecked so you know what territory we’re exploring here.

Taylor is a top guitarist and no slouch on piano and harmonica either.  He took these songs all the way to Austin so he could work with top Americana producer Mark Hallman in a bid capture the essence of his live guitar sound. It’s certainly worked with a lively, spontaneous feel enduring throughout with great clarity and minimum of clutter.

Bob Harris reckons Taylor reminds him of John Martyn. The soft, almost whispered vocal recalls that mood but once Taylor starts to rock out, which he does he once or twice, the rasp and roll sees him cruise along with JJ Cale such as on the insistent “Western Intervention” with superb unobstrusive harmonica wail and on Merle Travis’s “Sixteen Tons” a 1940s song of work and debt which Taylor offers as part of his ongoing theme.

The message continues even on the bouncy but still lyrically bleak “Ballad of a Happy Man” where a drop of hedonism is the antidote to loss and unemployment but, and here’s the happy bit, a wonderful country fiddle solo from Warren Hood which, with Hallman’s accordion, creates a Lousiana feel.  This alone makes the Stateside mission worthwhile.

Taylor celebrates last year’s TUC ‘March for an Alternative’ protest (“Stand Up”) revisits the 1984-85 miners’ strike on “Coal Not Dole”  the chorus of ‘which side were you on?’ recalling Dick Gaughan and Billy Bragg, with the power of his message excusing a certain lack of subtlety. But the directness of Taylor’s passion is the biggest part of his strength.  I mean no disrespect by calling this superb rant and roll.

JOHN BOTTOMLEY

www.seantaylorsongs.com

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