Kate Taylor

Beautiful Road

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The lesser-known sister of Livingston and James Taylor recorded a couple of albums in the 1970s, consisting primarily of thoughtfully chosen covers, before leaving the recording industry for over 20 years. She resurfaced in 2003 with an independently released collection of new material, most of which was written by her husband and manager, Charlie Witham. The album took on a certain poignancy when Witham became ill during its recording; he was to pass away months before its April 2003 release. Under the circumstances, it would be easy for Beautiful Road to become a mawkish, melodramatic affair; thankfully, it does not. Instead, it's a tender, if not quite awe-inspiring, set of granola folk, warming and encouraging in its sentiments (particularly on the title track). Kate Taylor's voice lacks character and personality, and though she might have gotten away with it in the studio-precision settings of the '70s, by contemporary standards her vocals turn the songs into nice background music, and not much more. Further, that voice lacks a necessary authority when she dips into the 12-bar blues territory of "Blue Tin Suitcase," a song far better suited to someone with Joan Osborne's pipes. She hits a high point, though, with her album-closing rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," for which brother James provided the arrangement and harmony vocals. Past Kate Taylor albums were star-studded efforts, and this one is no different, with guest appearances from Chuck Leavell, Levon Helm, and Mavis Staples. Their efforts don't make a case for Beautiful Road as an essential collection of contemporary folk tunes; for all its forgettability, though, the album is a pleasant listen, and at least there's no phoned-in reworking of "The Shoop Shoop Song" this time around.

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