Singer/songwriter Eric Taylor is best known for the coterie of musicians who have performed his compositions -- including ex-wife Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, and June Tabor. Although a Georgia native, he landed in Texas in the early '70s. His influences, which range from the folkie Townes Van Zandt to the distinct blues of Lightnin' Hopkins, informed much of the often tragic lifestyles and figures in his vignettes. Although considered a central figure in the hugely successful Houston folk music scene of the 1980s, Taylor's criminally underrated debut effort Shameless Love (1981) did little to boost the artist's career. Although he performed live, it would be almost a decade and a half before he would issue this 1995 eponymously titled follow-up. While there is not a dud among the dozen sides on Eric Taylor (1995), several stand out as minor masterpieces. At the head of the list is arguably the best-known track, "Deadwood" -- which Griffith issued as "Deadwood, South Dakota" on her One Fair Summer Evening (1988) album. The nod to Beat Generation avatar Neal Cassidy on "Dean Moriarty" sets the tone with intricate acoustic instrumentation surrounding the honest and straightforward verse. This is, in essence, what separates Taylor from the likes of John Prine. Although both bring realistic interpretations of lives lived and lost to their craft, the simplicity in Taylor's imagery is beautiful in its unadorned starkness. This is even true of the mod-tempo "Hey Little Ryder." The brisk "Shoeshine Boy" is perhaps the lone exception, however, as it is recalls a well-worn slice of life. However, with lines such as "I even got a wife/See this scar?," the characters remain tethered to Taylor's undeniable and unmistakable reality.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer