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La Grande Observer 11/28/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Musician never plays song same way twice

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Musician never plays song same way twice

Eric Taylor plays in Joseph at 7 p.m. June 12 at the home of Rodd and Mary Ambroson, 105 1/2 Barton Hts.
Eric Taylor plays in Joseph at 7 p.m. June 12 at the home of Rodd and Mary Ambroson, 105 1/2 Barton Hts.

A songwriter’s job is never done and Eric Taylor has no sympathy for those who complain about writer’s block.

“I’ll write someone a letter to get the juices flowing,” said the Texas singer-songwriter who annually makes a stop in Wallowa County on his Northwest tour. 

“I don’t have empathy for people who complain about writer’s block — if I call the plumber he doesn’t say, ‘I can’t come today I’ve got plumber’s block.’”

Taylor says he never plays a song the same way twice, which keeps his live performances elastic. However, he said, “Songwriters have an advantage that people failto remember — once it’s recorded it’s forever in plastic so you better get it right.”

Taylor is old school, coming from a tradition of early ’70s Houston songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, washing dishes and playing joints. He broke out of the smoky club scene with his first album in 1981, Shameless Love.

His songs go well with whiskey on a late, moonless night. They evoke longing and memories of long ago.

Taylor has been the man behind the music for other Texas crooners like Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett. A year ago he recorded a live, studio album with his two old friends and collaborators, wife Susan, and Denice Franke at the Red Shack in Houston.

The album hit No. 10 on the Americana charts and there is a rumbling that Taylor and “Eric Taylor and Friends, Live at the Red Shack” could be nominated for a Grammy.

Taylor lives with Susan in Borden, Tex. When he’s not touring he’s writing and when he’s not writing he’s recording and working out songs in his home studio. After the Red Shack album was recorded, he hit the road for his summer tours and Susan stayed home to produce the album. It was released in December.

Taylor is a frequent act at the Kerrville Folk Festival in the west hills of Texas. In 1977 he was a winner of its “New Folk” competition and in 1995 his self-titled album “Eric Taylor” was chosen as the 1996 festival album of the year.

Taylor returned to the fabled festival the first weekend in June before hitting the road for his summer tour, a place, he said, overrun with “free range hill hippies.”

Saturday afternoon he performed a spoken word piece as a eulogy for a friend and Saturday night he played a set under a summer’s sky.

Before his tour, Taylor was able to get five or six songs “in the can” in answer to a lot of pressure to get another album done before he goes to Europe later this year.

He’s also working on a couple of books, a documentary about early 20th century writer Jim Tully for PBS, and possibly a feature film.

A train whistle blows in the background, fitting for an interview with a man who writes folk/Americana/alt country songs. His style remains the same, though the description of it changes over the decades, whatever best sells records.

Taylor may not have reached the commercial success of Griffith and Lovett, but his writing, his voice, and his guitar picking are as fine as anyone who has sold millions of albums.

“If one more person tells me I’m a genius, I’m going to ask him for a check,” said Taylor.

Working 14 hour days for a man who has been in the music industry for more than 40 years can take its toll. After his Northwest tour two years ago, he returned home and had heart surgery. Well recovered, he’s staying busy.

Taylor said, “I’ll stay alive and keep my sideburns, too, that’s what Leon Russell used to say.”

Taylor plays in Joseph June 12 at 7 p.m. at the home of Rodd and Mary Ambroson, 105 1/2 Barton Hts., and is sponsored by the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance.

Tickets are $25 and available at The Bookloft in Enterprise and the Sheep Shed in Joseph, or call Rodd Ambroson at 541-263-1556. Parking is limited.

For information on Eric Taylor, visit his website: www.bluerubymusic.com.

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