It's hard not to think of Ben Taylor in the context of 1970s singer-songwriters since he's the son of two of the decade's biggest stars: James Taylor and Carly Simon. His smooth and gentle vocals could be likened to his father's, and he has some of his mother's pizzazz, too. But when he stops by the Frequency on Aug. 17, you'll see that he has blazed his own trail. As Taylor's most recent album, Listening, demonstrates, he has no interest in riding his parents' coattails.
It took Taylor a while to find his calling. Though he picked up the guitar at age 12, he didn't write his first song until he was in his 20s. Back then, he was trying to decide if he wanted to make a career out of farming. When he got serious about songwriting a few years later, he described his sound as "neo-psychedelic folk-funk," a far cry from the soft, soothing stylings of his mom and dad. But eventually, Taylor decided this didn't represent his musical personality, either. Taking to heart the adage "write what you know," he started incorporating sounds inspired by a trip to the Caribbean. On Listening, he explores his lineage while channeling the warm, woozy vibe of a tropical cruise.
The first half of the album is marked by tunes like the title track, whose easygoing folk-rock is reminiscent of the elder Taylor, and "Oh Brother," whose dance-inducing grooves feel like cousins of Simon's "You're So Vain." But once you hit the soulful rock of "Vespa's Song," all bets are off. After this song, there's a dancehall track ("America"), a reggae number ("Dirty") and a tune that falls somewhere between pop and hip-hop ("Burning Bridges"), with Taylor's quickly delivered spoken word fit for a Jason Mraz B-side. The dreamy, slightly kooky guitars on "You Could Be Mine" sound like they're being played on a tropical island at sunset, after you've had a few too many. This song is ideal for a lazy summer night, whether you're in Kingston or Madison.