Country-folk with excellent lyrics from songwriter with both Mohawk and West Indian heritage.
Although this album is good musically, with many songs having melodies that grow on you over time, it is the compelling lyrics with such humanity which stand out and are its strength. Julian Taylor comes from Toronto and has both Mohawk and West Indian heritage. He has said that on one side of this heritage his ancestors were taken from their lands, while on the other their land was stolen from them. Although he was not brought up on a reservation, he has strong connections to family who were.
‘Stolen Land’ deals with this very effectively: “This land is your land, This land is my land/This land was made for you and me/A poor choice of words from Woodie Guthrie/This land was taken and now everyone can see.” Taylor is very concerned with the struggles of his ancestors and adds later “This land was taken and built on slavery”. However, he also mentions the injustices felt by his people today: “She cries because her only son was killed by a shotgun/Another senseless tragedy triggered by police brutality”
Taylor states that the album “is an adolescence record about moving into adulthood”. It starts with two tracks, ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Murder 13’ where some of the difficulties of his young life are detailed but where he also talks about being glad to leave these troubles behind. In the first, he mentions being arrested by the police on a number of occasions, in the second that, like others, he started dealing in middle school.
Family is a strong thread throughout. In ‘Wide Awake‘, tales are told of his childhood and he pays tribute to his parents: “They did their best and they did it for freedom/ They did everything they could for me”. Becoming a father has been very important in his life. He sings: “Purpose and reason/ That’s what they say you’ll get when you have kids/ And I did” In ‘I Am a Tree’ he discusses the next generation: “Children climb over me/ I pass on all the knowledge I know”
Taylor has been in a band, Staggered Crossing, and can play electrified rhythm and blues but here he is solo playing laid back country-folk. There is gentle acoustic picking accompanied by steel guitar on many tracks with strings and slide guitar on some. Listening to the melodies on this, you can understand why he has won or been nominated for many awards in the past and why his songs have appeared on a number of TV shows.
Taylor finishes in a very positive way with two songs ‘Opening The Sky’ and ‘100 Proof’ where the importance of kindness is stressed. Although the album deals with hard times and sadness, overall it has a very upbeat feel with a strong message of hope for the future when lessons are learned from troubles and mistakes in the past.
“The pain and the suffering, the hope of recovering make us who we are/ The love and the laughter and everything that matters make us who we are”