Much as on last year's Calcutta Grove album, Walk With Me is firmly anchored by Sean Taylor's soulful voice which ranges from a sturdy but intimate whisper to a full-bodied growl, carrying with it an undeniable power to comfort and seduce. Taylor's own guitar and harmonica retain much of the raw soul of his previous album, though the presence of former Waterboy, Trevor Hutchinson, sharing the production credits here with Taylor, undoubtedly contributes to a more mainstream appeal. Hutchinson also brings the sturdy rhythms of his bass, and alongside the inclusion of Michael Buckley's saxophone, and occasional cello, pedal steel and hammond organ, there is a diverse sound palette on which Walk With Me draws, cleverly blending Taylor's sassy attitude with sublime, classy arrangements. Taylor's writing is as true to life as ever, with enthusiastic, frank portrayals of physical attraction and the pursuit of intimacy, but equally keen and vivid depictions of the depths of despair when hopes of love are spurned.
Tracks such as "So High" and "Fare Thee Well" are really Taylor's stock-in-trade, with minimalist arrangements that set Taylor's nimble acoustic guitar against his expressive drawl, drawing obvious influences from the 1960s golden era of folk-blues. Sounding more contemporary are tracks such as "For You" and "Slow Dance;" beautifully sombre tales of the trepidations of unrequited love that lend themselves perfectly to Taylor's evocative vocal. "Feel Alright" provides one of the more robust moments on the album, with a flirtatious, carefree performance that pulsates with life and lust, punctuated by a particularly vibrant, possibly even sexy, saxophone.
There are a couple of particularly interesting 'covers' to be found on Walk With Me. First up is "Love Hate On," where Taylor marries his music with words from a Shakespeare sonnet. It's an interesting combination, with Taylor gently purring his way through the intricate, emotive language of Shakespeare, all wrapped up in a blues-soaked, piano-led arrangement, underscored by the elegance of Vyvienne Long's cello. The traditional song, "She Moved Through The Fair," is treated to a complete overhaul, with a sparse vocal sung over a contemporary percussive rhythm, before giving way to a groovy instrumental interplay between saxophone, bass and hammond organ: it's almost unrecognisable, but it sounds absolutely exhilarating!
When I reviewed Taylor's last album, I made inevitable comparisons to John Martyn and, without wishing to be lazy, it's a similarity that just can't be ignored. Furthermore, it's much to Taylor's credit that any such comparisons could reasonably be made with the earlier material of Martyn that was regarded with such high critical acclaim. I don't think John Martyn ever covered Shakespeare though! Walk With Me certainly gives credence to Sean Taylor as a legend in the making.
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