With a wood fire burning and a bag of chile lemon pistachios, I drop the needle on the new James Taylor record, American Standard. I have to admit, as a child of the late-‘60s Vietnam, hippie, Hells Angels movement, a lot of these standards are still new to me….
Most recognize James Taylor as the soft-sung, gentle guitar player he is and continues to be with this release. You can hear him singing to the birds in “My Blue Heaven” and their response is orchestral with that sweet violin back porch pickin’, but, by the time “Moon River” hits, you can feel the ocean beneath your feet and if you’ve never had the opportunity to visit one of our great oceans, this is the perfect introduction.
So, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and the devil might not drag you under, but the mermaids may sweep you away to sea as James passes out the whiskey and the passengers attempt to resist. When James sinks in this drink, he thanks the Lord for recovery with a reprise of “don’t rock the boat baby.”
Enjoy the video for “Teach Me Tonight.”
In the misty morning, there’s a beautiful dobro intro for “God Bless the Child,” which speaks of beggars and hangers on. When you’re high, they come around, and when you’re low, they lose the ground beneath their feet. “I’ve Got My Own,” well, hell yeah we do, which gives us “Pennies From Heaven.” “Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven” and it’s uplifting, which takes us back to water in this water-world infused opus.
“Ol Man River” is where I want to retire. On the banks of the Mississippi in a shack with no electricity. Just whiskey brewing out in the woods, a fishing rod stuck in the mud and an acoustic guitar in hand. Maybe get me one of them fetching hounds to catch “(It’s Only) A Paper Moon” “hanging over a cardboard sea, but it wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me.” These lyrics are near and dear to my heart and James picks another perfect “Honkey Tonk Parade.”
In closing, James Taylor’s American Standard is a great album to shelve among your collection of soothing sounds. The only difference is this one shines a little brighter than most and it warms my heart to bust it out in the coldest of winters…
Check out this quick feature on the new album.
American Standard Track Listing:
01. My Blue Heaven
02. Moon River
03. Teach Me Tonight
04. As Easy as Rolling off a Log
05. Almost Like Being in Love
06. Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat
07. Nearness of You
08. You‘ve Got to Be Carefully Taught
09. God Bless the Child
10. Pennies From Heaven
11. My Heart Stood Still
12. Ol Man River
13. (It’s Only) a Paper Moon
14. The Surrey With The Fringe on Top
Release Date: February 28, 2020
Record Label: Fantasy Records/Universal Music Canada
Here’s the audio-only for “Teach Me Tonight,” if the video wasn’t your thing.