Long Train Runnin’

Posted on 14 May 2009


taylor-hicks-the-distance2

If you like your music computer-generated and bereft of soul, steer clear of Taylor Hicks’ latest CD, “The Distance.”  On his third independent release, you won’t find synthesizers or a techno-robotic voice; you won’t even find the ubiquitous box office star aspiring to overnight Top 40 fame.  What you will find on Hicks’ latest outing is a rich artistic collaboration with producers, musicians, and front men who have lent their talents to acts as celebrated and respected as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Squeeze, and Elvis Costello.

 

Solidly crafted over more than a decade playing tough roadhouses in the Deep South, Hicks’ foundation of musical sensibilities encompasses soul, the blues, jazz, funk, and Southern rock.  Into this musical brew, he now stirs a little country, a touch of bluegrass, Latin rhythms, and a soupcon of hip-hop.  Alternately upbeat and introspective, the mélange reflects both Hicks’ versatility and his commitment to going “The Distance” in his career as opposed to running a twenty-yard dash.  The artist’s voice is the thread of commonality linking and driving each tune.  To a human ear, that voice is a powerful, tender-gritty tenor likened by some to Michael McDonald’s pipes.  To a human heart, it speaks directly with passion and humor.  In the most emotional of the songs on his new collection, Hicks displays incredible control.  Instead of taking the obvious, over-the-top route, his approach, at once low-key and wrenching, renders them all the more poignant.

 

A musician, singer, songwriter, and arranger, Taylor Hicks shares songwriting credits for half of the new tunes with collaborators such as BB King-Clapton-Faith Hill producer Simon Climie, while other luminaries penned the balance.  These include Paul Carrack, the genius writer, singer, and keyboardist behind Roxy Music, Ace, Mike and The Mechanics, and Squeeze – including “Tempted,” the latter’s chart-busting U.S. single, Nick Lowe, producer of Elvis Costello’s early nerd-turned-punk-god brilliance, and the Grammy-winning Delbert McClinton, a warhorse who has scored consistently high on Billboard’s charts for country and crossover music.  Seasoned and self-taught in acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and harmonica, Hicks allowed other musicians to steer most of the live instruments on the new offerings.  These artists include drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and bassist Nathan East: veterans of Clapton and Paul McCartney tours.  Launched under Hick’s own label, Modern Whomp Records, the twelve cuts on this CD are, in reality, fourteen; the final, bonus song varies according to distributor (iTunes, Wal-Mart, and Target).  With only so much space to appraise them, this writer will confine her review to the songs that spoke most deeply to her.

 

“I Live on a Battlefield” is set not in the Iraqi desert but on the landscape of a romance besieged by betrayal and blame.  Like the desert sands, however, the complex tempos and rhythms shift quickly, creating a danceable, disturbing vehicle for Hicks’ inspired delivery: as if he’s been shot out of a cannon to stumble across a war-torn field, dodging fire.  “Battlefield” swings from an opening, Squeeze-pop hook to a bluesy, Marvin Gaye-like melody, evolving into something darker, almost Ray Charlesian.  Spooky keys give way to a scratchy guitar and quickly ascend into more delicate atmospherics.  Then we get Squeezed again and bled back into the blues.  Taylor’s high, plaintive cry inserted thrice toward the end tells that the bullets have found their mark.  Like an aria, the song builds to a crescendo where the guitar finally throws down the glove and riffs big time, anchoring Hicks’ potent, ever climbing vocals.  Josh Smith, the guitarist backing Taylor on his 2007 tour and appearing with him on some 2009 club tour dates, deserves mega-props for his blistering, riveting string work on this Carrack-Lowe cover.

 

With a relentless, almost militaristic beat beneath a snarling guitar, “Seven Mile Breakdown”‘ warns us from the get-go that we’re going to rock n’ roll heaven.  If you don’t slash air guitar and scrunch your face in a “hurts so good” grimace to this one, you may want to check your pulse.  Penned by Hicks and former band mate Wynn Christian, this no-holds-barred rock-out is a paean to Creedence, the Allmans, and other seminal Southern rock greats.  Achieving rich imagery with minimal lyrics, “Seven Mile Breakdown” is a love song, but not a typical one.  It is an ode to the artist’s push-pull love affair between the never-ending road and the woman waiting for him at the end of it.  And no, I’m not going to tell you who wins the tug of war (life should hold some surprises!).

 

Although other instrumentalists are credited on the gently cutting “Maybe You Should,” this reviewer hears only two: Tim Carmen’s gorgeous, understated piano and Taylor’s “I’m dying on the inside” vocals.  Listening to this soft heartbreaker as Hicks finally lets go of a vanishing relationship, I feel almost like a voyeur; it is that personal.  At the same time, the song is universal to anyone who has loved and lost.

 

Despite the fact that “Indiscriminate Act of Kindness” was written by Foy Vance, a musician who hails from Northern Ireland, Taylor Hicks owns this song by virtue of his articulation.  The sparsity of instrumentation balances the singer’s remarkably tender yet deeply profound delivery.  A quietly monumental act of kindness, the story told here is but a parable for a much greater life lesson.  To give it away in written language would rob you and every other reader of the richer experience that can only be achieved by hearing this beautiful song.  Please note that “Indiscriminate Act of Kindness” is available solely on the version sold by Target.

 

If you are unafraid of the sound of genuine human emotion, give yourself a present: buy “The Distance.”  You won’t be sorry that you did.





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54 Responses to “Long Train Runnin’”

  1. Jon says:

    This article is worthy of “Rolling Stone” magazine in its heyday.

  2. Stepanie says:

    I am not a Taylor Hicks fan and thats not because I don’t like his music its simply because I haven’t really listened to it and after I read your article you had me curious and intrigued to listen. So I went online and listened to a sample of his CD “The Distance” and was pretty impressed! His music has so much variety! As I was listening I was thinking of the artists and songs that his music reminded me of…and these are artists I love like John Cougar Mellencamp, and like you mentioned Michael McDonald and Marvin Gaye. I just love how one song can be so jazzy and then the next song rocks!!! I was pleased with his music and want to say thanks for turning me on to it! It was a great article on a great artist!! Well Done! :)

  3. Edster says:

    Rolling Stone has long since hit the hay. Too much coverage of rap and politics; not enough about real music, like this guy Hicks seems to make. I see they’re trying to get back to basics now.

    This album by Hicks seems worthy of checking out. ITA, it’s a good article. Rolling Stone ought to hire this writer; it may help their circulation.

  4. Tish says:

    Bravo for a great review and Bravo to Mr. Hicks for recording this album.

  5. Kay says:

    An extremely well written review of an Album I happen to already own.

    I agree with Ms. Felleca 100% – the emotion in Taylor Hicks’ music is pure and from his heart. When I buy a CD, there are usually several songs I do not care for, but I can honestly say I love every song on this one.

    “Maybe You Should” is one of my favorites; a ballad that catches your attetion from the beginning and holds it to the end. Taylor never sounded better!

    “Nineteen” is another favorite that speaks to your heart and brings a tear to your eye. Taylor sings about a young football player who could play college ball on a scholarship, but instead enlists in the Marines…I won’t ruin the story line for those who haven’t heard it.

    Give this CD a listen – you will be pleasantly surprised.

  6. sue b says:

    It is nice to read a well written article not just some copycat. You know the music and have listened to the DISTANCE. Taylor Hicks is a great songwriter and musician. I love the Distance. Every song is different. Vocals are amazing.

  7. Allison says:

    Great article!I’ve got Taylor’s cd and this article fits it to a tee!

  8. Louise says:

    If you don’t send this article to Rolling Stone, I will! Bravo to you Kathleen.

    I am a forever fan of Taylor Hicks’ music. He is a music historian, a passionate performer and a genuine and compassionate man. This CD represents all of the qualities that make real music devotees follow their heart when many others are ignoring true talent.
    The description of these songs is exquisite. I believe that the first half of Maybe You Should is just about the most perfect song I’ve heard in a long, long time.
    This CD is all Taylor from beginning to end. It deserves notice.
    Thanks again Kathleen. You’re pretty fantastic yourself!

  9. Christa says:

    I agree it’s a beautiful CD, very real.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Wow! What a great review! This lady “gets it” with Taylor Hicks! He’s so much more than some in the media bother to discover about him. Great article and a great cd, too. I have it and love the diversity and the delivery, the instrumentation and the voice! Gorgeous and real…both this article and the cd, “The Distance”.

  11. Lubiana says:

    Indiscriminate Act of Kindness is a masterpiece.

  12. medolark says:

    My son and I attended the first concert for The Distance. My son noted that what impressed him most about Taylor was how evident it was that Taylor loves all aspects of music. You can hear it on this album and see it when you watch him live. He’s a fantastic live entertainer and shows appreciation for each artist in his band. This is my fave cd so far but I expect there will be many more in Taylor’s future. Thanks for the introspective review. Ü

  13. toffee says:

    My admiration of Taylor Hicks and his music continues to grow as he shares his feelings with us. I have bought the CD, The Distance, and am so pleased with its diversity of genres. He is deep and intense as he invites us into his world. I hope others will learn about him and enjoy this treasure with the rest of us. Way to go Taylor!

  14. Gypsee says:

    Wonderful review from someone who really gets Taylor and his music! “Maybe You Should” is to me, one of the best things Taylor has done and grabs at the heart in a quiet but gut wrenching way. I love all of the different types of music on this CD, something for all tastes. Thanks so much for a fantastic review of an awesome artist and his music.

  15. what the hey says:

    Taylor Hicks is one of the few American Idol contestants that I’ve really liked. In a sea of plastic and phoney, he stood out to me as a genuine musician. I really like several songs from The Distance. I feel that 2 or 3 of them are out of place here, but that’s just me. Hicks sings Seven Mile Breakdown like he owns it. He obviously brings a lot of real life experience to the performance. Great song. I’d have to rate it my favorite.

    I haven’t been lucky enough to find the CD that has Indiscriminate Act Of Kindness. I did, however, find the song online. It’s a gut-wrenching performance, yet the message is strong and positive. I believe that his positive vibe will serve Hicks well if sticks it out long enough for people to see that angst is just not fun. It’s ok to smile. It might even be cool.

  16. Kathy says:

    You are sure right about the techno robotic voice that has taken over music today. Taylor Hicks is a breath of fresh air. I was blown away by this return Idol performance a few weeks ago. He looked and performed like a super Star.

  17. Nils says:

    What an excellent review! You picked what happened to be my four favorite songs to appraise. Other favorites are The Distance, Hide Nor Hair and Yes We Can. As one commenter mentioned, I believe many people don’t appreciate Mr. Hicks simply because they’ve never listened to him. Unfortunately, his music is not played on the radio so he is not being heard. We can only hope that changes in the near future.

  18. Hope says:

    Finally, a thoughtful review of a talented, deserving artist. Thanks for taking the time to actually “listen” to the cd and give us your impressions. Maybe You Should is still my favorite.

  19. Lucy says:

    Great review. You’ve got a fabulous vocabulary for describing sound – a tough thing to do!

    I like The Distance, especially the varity of styles he’s chosen – Latin, blues, Southern Rock, R&B, gospel, diddies, and more. That he does them all so well is a statement in itself.

    Taylor’s unique voice interprets each genre equally well. I listen to every song without getting bored with the repetition; so many albums contain two styles – fast and slow. This one is a buffet of rhythms, intrumentation, and sounds.

    Good writing and outstanding review!

  20. Nancy says:

    This is a beautifully written review. I went to see “Grease” recently. Taylor Hicks was playing “Teen Angel,” and his CD was on sale there. It’s a great CD. I never skip a single song when I play it. I especially love “Seven Mile Breakdown,” which is a Southern rockin’ tune, “Maybe You Should,” which is a lovely heartbreaker, and “Nineteen,” about a soldier hero. Just try and listen to “Nineteen” for the first time without getting teary-eyed! Taylor Hicks seems to get a lot of bricks thrown at him, which I’ve never understood. It’s nice to read such a positive, thoughtful review.

  21. Lee says:

    Fantastic review and right on point. Taylor Hicks seems to know what he wants and keeps his vision real in getting there. To top it off he’s a great talent and a gracious man as well.

  22. Betty says:

    Nancy, I don’t understand the brick throwing either, but I hear that Taylor uses the bricks to build his foundation to greatness. :-)

    Exquisite writing here by the author. I read in awe of the musical descriptions. I don’t know if you are a fan of Taylor Hicks or not, but you are certainly a masterclass writer. If I didn’t already own Taylor’s CD, this article would certainly draw me to at least listen to his music to form my own opinion.

    Taylor has worked long and hard in a profession that is grueling and oftentimes thankless. Thankfully, he kept plugging away night and day playing and singing the music that was in his heart and soul–music that was his entire being. Taylor is a walking music encylopoedia. I don’t think he could ever give up music. It seems to be what keeps him alive.

    I believe Taylor has more than one masterpiece on The Distance. It’s a shame that radio won’t play him as they are keeping wonderul, real music from their listeners. Are they afraid one of the songs might be a hit? I don’t know what their reason is. Maybe You Should is phenominal. Seven Mile Breakdown. Nineteen. Indiscrimate Act of Kindness. What’s Right is Right. I could go on.

    Again, a beautifully written review of The Distance. Those who are on the fence about listening to the CD, jump on board. You will be glad you did.

  23. brenda says:

    Love your review…sounds like you actually took the time to listen to Taylor Hicks cd then give an honest review….we are a family with 2 kids and all 4 of us enjoy him and his music…he’s not one of those cookie cutters they’re trying to push down our throats.He’s good honest to God Solid soulful /country music.!Thank You again.

  24. Bonnie says:

    All the comments here echo your fine review of Taylor Hicks as an artist and The Distance as the results of his wonderful talents. I must say I couldn’t agree more. I am blown away by his artistry as a singer/songwriter/musician/arranger and especially by how everything he does comes from deep down inside. To put on a Taylor Hicks CD and crawl into the story of a song that takes you from beginning to end in vocal and musical masterpiece in just a few glorious minutes is a true treasure. And, if that isn’t enough, he changes the theme of the next story to once again arouse your interest and pleasure. He is a true treasure! Thank you for “getting” Taylor.

  25. Joe says:

    This review and all the comments are so eloquently stated that my thoughts may seem out of place. This is my first venture into a Taylor Hicks CD. Hicks’ recent appearance on Idol sparked my interest because he was so passionate about his return to the Idol stage. I made a huge leap of faith and purchased The Distance. There is not a track that I dislike, a unique experience for me. Hicks does not keep you on an even emotional keel in this CD. It is a roller coaster ride, folks. Personally, I am hung up on “Once Upon A Lover.” the tune with the Latin beat. Brilliantly done! My itunes download has “Yes We Can”. No, it isn’t a political message. I dare anyone from 1-100 to sit still during this song. This is the kind of music I want to hear on the radio. Radio? I have the whole album on my ipod close at hand. Great review! Off to find “Indiscriminate Act of Kindness”. Thanks for the tip.

  26. Betty says:

    Joe, so glad you are enjoying Taylor’s music. Taylor has said many times that his reason for living is to make people happy with his music. It sounds like maybe he has done that for you.

    Although I have the CD, I have not heard Yes We Can. After your description of it, I just may have to run it down. I guess it’s my turn to take a leep of faith, huh.

    Taylor is such a gift. I am certain he has much more in store for his fans in the future.

    By the way, if you are enjoying The Distance, you will be blown away by his live performances. If you ever get the chance to see him live, I promise you it will be money well spent.

  27. WBOB says:

    Love this well-thought out review….refreshing in these
    days of same o same o music/musicians/promoters/etc….

  28. carole says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful review of The Distance. Taylor Hicks at his best.
    Do yourself a favor and listen to the cd. You’ll love it too.
    See Taylor live. It is nothing like you have ever seen before.

  29. Gio says:

    As an American Idol fan, I must say that during that season (the best , in my opinion), I did like Taylor Hicks, although I was rooting for the eventual 2nd place finisher.
    However, since that time, I have attended several of his concerts and I have found him to be a truly, talented musician & singer surrounded by an absolutely, Extraordinary Band. His Sax man Brian Gallagher is absolutely the BEST I have ever heard… WOW…
    This is a GREAT, GREAT album, – What’s Right is Right, Once Upon a Lover, Maybe You Should & the Distance are my favorites.
    The album is aptly named, as it should truly go “The Distance” in my opinion.

  30. Barbieflausa says:

    I adore “Maybe You should” “Once Upon A Lover” and “Woman’s Got To Have it” with Elliott Yamine; shows so many sides to Mr. Hicks. Thank you for your lovely article about a lovley Southern soulman.

  31. Kentucky Brenda says:

    Fantastic review! I’m a little bit country but I really get excited when Mr. Hicks sings anything. I love his voice, I love the way he writes and boy do I love the way he performs.

  32. Tempe says:

    Kathleen, you have a way with words as eloquent as Taylor’s music. Every album by Taylor Hicks is resting nearby and on the iPod. I would definitely be seeking them out after reading your review. Now I listen – again and again.

  33. Debbie in Florida says:

    What a beautiful review. You couldn’t have said it better. I have always been a fan of Mr. Hicks. I voted for him on American Idol. He is a true musician; the music is in his blood.

    His latest CD is a broad range of his musical talents. It proves, to me, that he can sing any genre. He could sing anything, and he makes it his own. He Taylorizes it.

    “Seven Mile Breakdown” is great, “Woman’s Got to Have it” with Elliott Yamin, “What’s Right Is Right”.

    He also has an excellent work ethic.

    I think this article was great, and should be sent to Rolling Stone. Thanks for sharing this article. You certainly did your homework on Taylor.

  34. Andie says:

    What a fantastically written review. The nail has been firmly hit on the head!

    The thing I love most about Taylor’s new CD is that no matter what mood I am in, there is a song on the album to match that mood. That is why it has never left my CD player since it came into my posession!

  35. June says:

    Taylor is incredible and The Distance is awesome. This article is great and as it says, if you haven’t had the good fortune to hear him, buy the CD, you will be pleased you did.
    His live performances are even better if that’s possible.
    I am a Soul Patroler and will remain one forever.

    God Bless Taylor & God Bless America

  36. Kathy says:

    The only thing better than Taylor’s CD is Taylor live in concert. That man can put on a show like no other.

  37. Peggy says:

    Taylor is awesome. The CD is great. I’m I love all of the songs. It’s about time that Taylor is getting the kind of press he deserves. Thank you so much for your article.

  38. WBOB says:

    what a well thought-out article,….very refreshing to hear someone that can break away from the pack and get away from the standard music
    industry bilge….I love when independent thought stands out like this.
    Well done.

  39. Theresa says:

    As I read your review of Taylor’s new cd “The Distance” I found myself hearing the cd in my head. You described the feelings that this cd brings out in such an eloquent manner. That cd is a must have for all music lovers.

    I love Taylor’s new cd “The Distance”. My faves are “Maybe You Should” and “I Live On A Battlefield” (both are now ringtones. I got the cd with “Indiscrimate Acts Of Kindness” from Target – the one with “Hide Nor Hair” from WalMart and downloaded the song “Yes We Can” from iTunes. (By the way – that is an awesome updated version of The Pointer Sisters’ hit).

  40. Harleydog1 says:

    Great article, and I agree The Distance is a great CD.

  41. Wila K. says:

    I stumbled upon this while looking for other articles of interest on this site, which is pretty good (I also like the paranormal articles). I gave this article a hit because it had so many comments, all of them positive for this perfomer. Because of what I’ve read here, I’m going to go to Target after work and pick up Taylor Hicks’ new CD. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  42. I have all 3 copies of Taylor’s album, it is a great album, I would recomand it to everyone :)

  43. Renaldo Burin says:

    Awesome post! You have a great blog, absolutely the best Ive read so far. I will be looking forward to your next entry. Thanks again.

  44. Cathern Jacobos says:

    When one views the issue at hand, i have to agree with your endings. You intelligibly show cognition about this subject and i have much to find out after reading your article.Lot’s of salutations and i will come back for any further updates.

  45. Caleb Zrimsek says:

    Mono is where it is at. I now realize why this album is a masterpiece. Stereo doesn’t compare on most of the songs. You have to hear these songs in mono. It’s a shame it’s limited release. There are different mixes and takes.

  46. Woot says:

    This brings back memories dude. I use to play the sax all the time. It’s been years since I took it out though. I might have to do that later tonight. Thanks.

  47. My Eschmann says:

    Paul McCartney is a true superstar…both of yesteryear and today!

  48. Tidwell says:

    This article is pretty informative. it actually provide me what i’ve searching for. Thank you for Posting

  49. GF says:

    Nice! Great article!


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