Appropriately titled (“long overdue” comes to mind), it’s his first solo recording since becoming a founding member of Blue Highway seventeen years ago.
Although I’m not familiar with Taylor’s pre-BH history, from the group’s first appearances and recordings through the present, Wayne Taylor’s voice and songwriting ability have become primary components of the band’s success. At the same time, with all of the talent and variety that the band presents, each member subordinates himself for the collective balance. While this is as it should be, It’s About Time gives us an opportunity to hear Wayne out of the BH context, creating his own music.
Joining Wayne on this project are Ron Stewart (banjo, fiddle), Jesse Brock (mandolin), Tom Adams (guitar), Darin & Brooke Aldridge (harmony vocals), Buck White (harmony vocals and piano), Sharon White Skaggs & Cheryl White Warren (harmony vocals), Tony Brown (banjo, guitar), and Rachel Johnson Boyd (fiddle, harmony vocals, lead vocal on Walked Away). Notably absent are Taylor’s bandmates from Blue Highway, but when I had a chance to chat with him about the project he indicated that he didn’t want the recording to sound like just another Blue Highway project (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Aside from the use of non-BH backup, a noteworthy aspect of the arrangements which has created a different sound is the use of high-stacked harmonies throughout the project, with two parts above Wayne’s lead. Since being blown away by Ricky Skaggs’ use of this arrangement with Emmylou Harris doing the high baritone part on the bluegrass cuts on Sweet Temptation, I’ve been a big fan of this harmony arrangment. The Whites and Darin & Brooke Aldridge provide both power and beauty to the high harmonies on this recording.
Wayne’s songwriting is showcased (he wrote or co-wrote nine of the twelve selections), and at no point is there a weakness in his writing. I could have done without the inclusion of Little Maggie and Chips and Salsa (an instrumental), not because they weren’t good, but because it might have allowed room for more of Taylor’s compositions. Standouts (really they all are) for me were Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’ (a swingy gospel tune featuring a piano solo and a bass vocal by Buck White), You’re Gone (the instrumental work by Jesse Brock and Ron Stewart on both fiddle and banjo is special), and Bluest Eyes In Tennessee (classic bluegrass sound).
One last observation that I didn’t make until studying the liner notes and re-listening (after the first ten times) — two cuts (Gone Lone Gone and 38 Special) are up tempo straight ahead bluegrass songs that seemingly would be perfect for full instrumentation with fiddle, and one of the great fiddlers in bluegrass was on hand, but both songs were recorded with four piece instrumentation — banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass. This is noteworthy for several reasons to me.
First, I listened to this recording at least ten times without noticing the absence of the fiddle or any “holes” unfilled, a tribute to those four musicians. Second, whether done to vary the sound on the project or just because that was all that was needed on those songs, it shows the attention to detail and thought Wayne Taylor put into this project. Finally, because my wife and I perform in a four-piece group (as much for economics as anything else), it reinforces that if everyone pulls his (or her) weight and works together, four pieces can create a full and pleasing instrumental sound; thank you very much, Wayne Taylor.
In every respect, It’s About Time was worth the wait, but let’s hope it’s not another seventeen years before the next Wayne Taylor release.