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Music Review: Chip Taylor – This Side of the Big River

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There are surely a large host of socially relevant issues that could be solved if we ever manage to unravel the mystery of time travel. For example we could go back in time and prevent the atrocities of Adolf Hitler or maybe we could have even figured out a way to prevent the Bush clan from being so hell bent on starting wars every time they win or steal an election.

Still if I had the power of time-travel at my fingertips I would use it for a much more selfish purpose than righting society’s ills. I’d travel back to the early '50s and stick around to see all the awesome musical events that I missed being a child born in the mid-seventies. During my travels back in time I’d make sure I ran into Chip Taylor, an artist whose name I hadn't even heard of until about a week ago.

That’s because Chip Taylor’s album This Side of the Big River, that is being reissued on February 20th by Collectors Choice Music, is an album that impresses me more than anything I’ve heard in a long time. Originally released in 1975 the album is the third, and last, in a string of country albums that Taylor recorded for Warner Bros.

The album went largely unnoticed due to the fact that Taylor was better known for recording pop hits like “Angel of the Morning” and the rock standard “Wild Thing,” a song that comedian Sam Kinison turned into a rock-star free for all during the '80s. It also didn’t help that his label Warner Bros. had no experience in promoting county music.

Despite being know for his pop songs, when I hear songs from the album like “John Tucker is on the Wagon Again” and the albums lead track “Same Ol’ Story” I can’t help but think of the influence Chip Taylor must have had on other musicians during his country phase.

That’s because I hear a lot of The Grateful Dead’s country explorations from Workingman’s Dead on This Side of the Big River and can only imagine that Garcia and the boys crossed paths with this album at one time or another, being the astute musical students that they were. In addition, Taylor’s live take of the Johnny Cash staple “Big River” is one of the best I’ve heard in recent memory.

Taylor’s love for music in all it’s forms is one of the crucial things that I think is missing in much of today’s music, and just like Randy Newman, Taylor is an extremely talented and under appreciated songwriter whose works should be given serious consideration by any aspiring musician.

We may not have mastered time-travel but at I’m glad we got the recording thing down long ago so that everyone can have a chance to hear great music, that might have been missed otherwise, like This Side of the Big River

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