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Taylor Martin

Song Dogs – 2018 (Little King)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Taylor Martin

Among the many musical treasures from Asheville, N.C. is one of its best, already veteran, and still growing songwriters, Taylor Martin. The Richmond-raised, 14-year resident of Asheville has tapped into the local music scene in a major way, but also brings the spirit of the West, having spent five years in Utah and influences of southern rock and R&B to his eclectic sound. On "Song Dogs" Martin enlists the support of The Honeycutters' Amanda Anne Platt for producing and harmonizing and together, they recruited a stellar cast of backing musicians.

Among them are Matthew Smith (guitar/pedal steel from the Honeycutters, Mountain Heart's Aaron Ramsey (mandolin, acoustic guitar) and Josh Shilling (keyboards), along with Lyndsay Pruett on fiddle (Jon Stickley Trio).

Taylor brought a batch of terrific songs that he sings in his raspy, emotive voice. The first single, "Little Pictures" has a bluesy feel and urges us to get away from technology, put down our cell phones and listen up. "Here Comes the Flood" brings Taylor's catchy riffs and his more reflective side appears in "Eden, Colorado" with both Wood's spiraling solo and interplay with Smith's pedal steel adding the colors. The textures become even more dream-like in "Second Sight" with the orchestral string arrangements, and they change again on the pop sounding "Hollywood," which features harmonies from Grammy winner Debrissa McKinney.

"Our Memories" is a duet with Platt that reflects on remaining at home after his loved one has left and the duo reprises with love found in "Milk and Honey" spotlighting Ramsey's mandolin. Three covers come from classic songwriters. Taylor offers a nostalgic reading of Dylan"s "Sign on the Window" ("New Morning'), an upbeat Cajun version of Neil Young's "Music Arcade" ("Broken Arrow") and a tender take on one of Merle Haggard's best, the mournful "Kern River."

The piano drive, haunting title song comes last, inspired in part by coyotes howling (per cover art) to find each other at night. It may seem that it stands apart from the others in tone and style, but several listens to Martin will have you hearing an array of styles and influences. That's what makes it so infectious. Each song stands apart.