Those who remember Chip Taylor solely from his writing credits for the hits "Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning" - or even perhaps for the series of country albums he recorded for a variety of record labels from the 1970s on - may not recognize the grizzled vocals and decidedly low cast delivery he applies on these two simultaneously released companion albums that overlap with similar circumstance. Somber, sobering and reflective, they find the veteran, singer/songwriter offering songs about his family, friends and travels abroad, interspersing "Little Brother" with spoken dialogue and, on one of its tracks, "Enlighten Yourself," with horn honks that make it best to avoid while driving.
Taylor expresses sentiments with sad, sparse arrangements that leave little variation in tone or treatment. A surprisingly tuneful whistle on "Live To Strike Again" (from "I'll Carry You") and the tender and touching "Refugee Children" (from "Little Brothers") aside, there's little to elevate any one track from the generally forlorn sound that finds each of these songs all but indistinguishable from one another.
That's not to say these two albums aren't engaging, despite their tired tones. In fact, these winsome ballads are consistently emotional and affecting, with songs such as "I'll Carry For You" off the album of the same name, and the "Little Brother" entry "St. Joan" as beautiful as anything Taylor's ever written. Obviously, Taylor's ties to his siblings remain as strong as ever, and that becomes increasingly clear with each of these interludes. Still, one might have wished for a bit more variation to stave off the tendency to drift off or worse, even doze off along the way. It's a danger that becomes increasingly tempting the longer one listens. Much like indulging a friend who insists on showing you his scrapbook of family photos, the interest and enthusiasm lasts only so long.