Chip Taylor is best known as a songwriter. His songs have been recorded by everyone from Waylon Jennings to the Hollies, and he’s most famous for the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” and “Angel of the Morning,” which has been performed by seemingly every pop-country female solo act in the country, most famously Juice Newton (remember the opening to Deadpool?) and sampled by Shaggy. He’s also had an extensive career as a producer. That’s quite the pedigree.
These days, Taylor has settled comfortably into the “proud grandpa” phase of his career, content to watch his grandchildren play in the yard while he sits on the porch strumming his guitar. This vibe serves him well on both his album, Little Brothers, and his EP, I’ll Carry For You. Despite some undeniably bizarre choices, it’s pleasant music for pleasant times.
Taylor references his family heavily on this album — not just his granddaughters, who sing backup on several tracks, but his brothers, actor Jon Voight and volcanologist Barry Voight. Taylor also has several songs dedicated to his wife, Joan.
The title track is based on a dream Taylor had. He claims in the liner notes that “the morning after, I called both my brothers to document the dream so it would never be forgotten.” (Credit to the Voight brothers for being patient, because, for most of the population, hearing, “You were in my dream last night” is the beginning of a special kind of hell.)
Taylor was briefly a pro golfer — his father was a notable golf teacher — and his love of the sport is evident throughout both albums. The first song on the album, “Barry and Buffalo,” is less of a song and more of a spoken word story about his grandniece Alex competing in a golf tournament. He only sings between the verses and a bit at the end, and it’s a charming story told by a proud relative; the final verse — “We all need some great rides home” — is highly relatable.
He spends several songs canonizing his wife, dubbed “St. Joan” specifically on track seven. Taylor describes how his patient wife is there to remind him “when [he is] stupid, which he is a lot of the time,” and encourages the listener to find someone similar. Taylor speaks about growing older with her on “Time Goes By.”
The spoken-word parts of the album are charming and help provide important context — this isn’t a metaphor-heavy album, so anything that grounds us is good — but there are some undeniably strange choices made here. In his spoken word bits for “Enlighten Yourself,” Taylor curses a few times and gets censored with a car horn effect.
It takes a bit of listen to realize it’s not an error — or a fellow driver if one is listening to it in the car. He also tells listeners how songs simply telling people to “enlighten themselves” without providing advice how to do so are “bullshit,” a sentiment that returns with a reprise of the song at the end.
Another odd moment comes during the intro to “Refugee Children,” when he introduces himself by name. This is curious on several levels — if one listens to the album straight through, there’s no need for him to introduce himself, and it feels bizarre. If one listens to this album on shuffle, the intro is its own track, so there’s no guarantee it’ll match up with the song itself.
I’ll Carry For You is, on the whole, the stronger album. In another callback to his golfing days, the album centers on Brooke and Brittany Henderson, Canadian sisters and golfers.
Brooke is one of the top golfers in the world at age 19 and represented her country in the Rio Olympics. Brittany also plays golf, and both caddy for each other. Though their names are never mentioned directly in the lyrics, their relationship and accomplishments are the unifying theme of the album.
The title track refers both to carrying in the literal sense — as in, caddying — and the metaphorical sense as well, while the rest of the album speaks to the natural talent of the sisters (“She Had No Time to Get Ready, She Just Was”) and their work ethic (“Let Me Fall My Own Way”).
Three of the nine tracks on the album are just instrumental themes, which are a puzzling inclusion but they’re pleasant enough.
The last track on I’ll Carry For You – listed as a “bonus track” — is a cover of the title song performed by Shaye Zadravec, a woman with a lovely voice and little Internet presence. With all due respect to Taylor, it’s one of the strongest tracks on either album. It demonstrates how good a songwriter Taylor is — his songs sound as good, if not better, when interpreted by others. The fact that it’s sung by a woman helps immensely since it’s a song about sisters.
I’ll Carry For You, again, highlights Taylor’s “proud grandpa” stage in life, admiring the work young people around him are doing at something he knows well. It’s not an album likely to get one pumped up and excited, but it offers a serious, yet touching, take on a subject about which Taylor cares deeply, and that effort shows.
Always a songwriter, Chip Taylor decided to be a storyteller first and a musician second on this album and EP combo and, overall, it worked out pretty well. Longtime Taylor fans with love it. Newer Taylor fans will respect it.
Get your copy of I’ll Carry For You and Little Brothers from the Trainwreck Records store.