Eric Taylor

Acts Playing South by Southwest

SXSW Records

Eric Taylor

Scuffletown (Eminent)

With a voice like old leather, saturated with long years of smoke and tears but only getting better with time, Texas songsmith Eric Taylor loads his latest release Scuffletown with about as much dark emotion and as many unwelcome ghosts as a single album can handle. Though it starts off on what seems like a nice, nostalgic enough note on "Happy Endings," there's a hidden subtext going on -- no, things are not what they may seem -- that's maintained to differing degrees throughout Scuffletown. Where the mournful "Blues Piano" is an ode to the power of music, the rest of Scuffletown is a stretch of dour songs full of unfaithful women and murderous men, all set against a gorgeous wash of acoustic guitar and subdued arrangements of drum-bass-keys-background vocals. Even a trip to see Charlie Rich sing in "All the Way to Heaven," turns out, it seems, to be the scene of a killing. Outcasts and others trodden by the day to day search for a place of melancholic fantasy are resigned to fate in Scuffletown. The album ends with a series of particularly powerful songs, as "Your God" questions historical cruelty in the name of religion, "Bread and Wine" puts words into the mouth of Christ at the Last Supper, and "Game is Gone" in effect picks up where the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" left off, following that darker deity through history. In the end, the entire album is brought together through the words of Townes Van Zandt, in his "Nothin'," with an electric guitar wailing like a specter in the distance: "Echoes strummed from pure temptation, sorrow and solitude, these are the precious things, and the only words that are worth rememberin' anyway." (Saturday, March 17, the Hideout, 9pm)

***.5

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Rob Baird
After All (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Feb. 8, 2019

Texas Platters
Bruce Smith
'Til the Wheels Fall Off (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Feb. 8, 2019

More by Christopher Hess
Phases & Stages
Rob Halverson
Second Whirled (Record Review)

Feb. 4, 2005

Phases and Stages
Stratford 4
Love and Distortion (Record Review)

March 14, 2003

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle