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"Come By" by Taylor-Louise

Review

It's been quite a while since I had the pleasure of reviewing a Taylor-Louise release: in fact it was about eighteen months ago when the title track of her magnificent ‘Black Heart' EP became the final single from it.

That collection would have been a hard act to follow, such a career high point as it was and of course the subsequent events were not very conducive to recording let alone trying out new material on audiences. In fact I suspect that simply being busy with all those other aspects of her life and interests would have limited her time for music anyway: she has been far from inactive in the meantime.

"Come By" (for such is the name of today's release and which she has crafted with producer Danny Azhar), either because Taylor-Louise does not wish to try to emulate past glories, or because knowing how restless her quest for moving herself forwards can be or maybe just because the song required such an approach in her opinion, sounds very unlike any of the previous material of hers I have reviewed or you have heard.

Hitherto, her songs have had their genesis on acoustic guitar and even if given fuller arrangements on records, she has still played them solo in that fashion. "Come By" is another variety of creature altogether: very much a contemporary, electronic dance sound: if there is an acoustic guitar in there, then I missed it.

The subject matter is different too: virtually all Taylor-Louise's  earlier songs, right back from her teenage years, have been deeply reflective, soul searching lyrics, culminating in the previously mentioned EP. Now I've gone on record so many times expressing my admiration for her honesty & bravery in delving so deep into her life and emotions and then making really good songs out of what she found: I felt it was her trademark and applauded her for it. Often. However, with hindsight, I suppose not only must there be a finity of such material for any individual but that continual level of intensity in her work must be challenging to keep up permanently: plus adhering to one type of song, however well you do it, is not a great recipe for a long career. A bit of range and diversity will impress people.

Speaking with her earlier, Taylor-Louise confirmed that she was definitely aiming for something more light hearted in tone, something to evoke feelings of "just being chilled and content". Now I am very aware that I am prone to read too much into music I'm reviewing and try to rein myself in from excesses. I fully respect what the track's creator says about it, but I do also wonder if there are more subconscious elements at work from time to time which musicians may not themselves be as conscious of? At any rate, I can't help notice in "Come By" a reflection of Taylor-Louise's well known interest in people's good mental health in the theme of this song which is around a tendency to overthink: the apparent story being around a relationship issue perhaps, but deeper down, we are all going through a period of great stress and many of us have been isolated for a long time, a situation where the space for overthinking expands enormously. Her advice then is most topical: "not to worry about things and it'll all work out!"

Personally I appreciate the message and I also really like being surprised by artists. I'm sure it's a good test for realising how broad their ranges might be. "Come By" should do much the same for all of you too: chill you out & set you on a beneficial road but also offer you a side of Taylor-Louise you might not have expected. Don't worry: she's just as good as she ever was, but she's different on this outing. The writing is up to her usual standards, if the angst levels are down and it's great to hear her adapt her voice to the demands of the new style.

It'll be interesting to hear how she performs it live, but then it'll be great just to catch her live again. As for where her music is going, I think it's fair to say that there'll be plenty of unexpected turns on the road ahead.

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Taylor-Louise launches 'Black Heart'

Review

What a fiesta of an evening on Friday at St Patrick's Club in Leamington.

Organised by Taylor-Louise as a launch evening for her "Black Heart" EP it also was a birthday celebration for her & it served too as an evening for raising awareness of mental health issues & fund raising for the local MIND: this tells you a lot about her values & of course skills in setting up a packed evening with three mindbogglingly superb acts, food & the above activity.

In fact the musical side could almost have doubled as a "Hot Music Live Presents" evening too as Taylor-Louise & her guests Chalk Drawings both appear on "Volume One" and opening act Evergreen on "Volume Two" (as of course does Naomi Beth who was helping out on the evening though not performing).

Opening the night with gusto, the fast rising Evergreen set a very high bar for the following artists. The core quartet of Rikki Hansel on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Tyron Hansel on bass & vocals, Noah Dobbie on guitar, ukulele and vocals & Erin O'Rourke who plays guitar (& on other occasions the bass) and is the fourth singer in their multilayered harmonies were joined by Jeremy Walker on drums: as indeed they are on the "Sunny Lady" single which appears on "Hot Music Live Presents 2" and he plays on the EP they are currently recording. His dynamic playing, which adds almost another melodic element with his imaginative tom work drives their powerful yet subtle playing into yet another dimension & will really aid them in larger venues & the festival appearances they hopefully will play in 2020. It was one interesting indicator of the consequences of the evolved sound that Rikki switched to an electric guitar for some numbers.

Next up were the ever popular Chalk Drawings, though reduced on this occasion to a trio of Simon Dagger (vocals & guitar) Kev Stanley (drums) and Dan Holford (guitar) as bassplayer Rob Lewis was unable to be present. Given the number of funky songs they play, it's incredible how they coped without a bass, but they surely did, giving us their usual full energy & full emotion commitment with a range of crowd pleasers such as "Halcyon Days" and "Rag & Bone". It had been quite a while since I'd last seen them play & I do hope to see more of them in 2020.

Finally the star of the show came on, aided for many (but not all) songs by a band comprising Tom Graham on drums, Sean Clarke  (whom you may know from Courthouse) on lead guitar and Callum Mckissock on bass, whom you might also know from Godiva Festival 2019 Main Stage act Brass Hip Flask.

As with the other artists tonight, Taylor-Louise shone & she thrilled. It is most interesting how this really self aware, candid & articulate musician spoke of her own mental health issues: on one hand she utterly owns her stage & had no qualms about following such high quality support acts, yet she told us how off stage she suffers anxieties & would much rather be on the stage than attending gigs as an audience member, which she finds difficult. It is rather humbling to hear someone able to share such things.

I once commented in the magazine that she seemed to be creating new material faster than she could record & release it (a reflection which she has been sufficiently taken with to put it on her Facebook page banner) and in true Taylor-Louise style, she didn't let us down with her signature setlist of rarely played old songs, very recent ones, favourites & of course her customary debut of a really new one. Most were played with the band giving them plenty of power & panache, yet mid set the others took a breather while she played several solo & she commanded the room with these just as surely as she did with her full lineup.

 

Naturally, the title track of the EP was the highlight of the evening. I hope you have read in "Hot Music Live" my reviews of previous singles taken from it:"Gone" (in June) & "Generation Now" (May), both of which naturally were also played. Nevertheless, when I first heard these songs played live some months ago, it was "Black Heart" which really caught my attention & for which I have been waiting. I really believe it can do well for her & introduce her music to an ever wider audience. Although her writing just gets better & better, this song really does stand out as being something extra special. What a privilege to have been there. Thank you Taylor-Louise & all those involved in an evening unlike others.

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Excited launch for Taylor-Louise's Black Heart EP

Review

Leamington Spa based singer/songwriter Taylor-Louise launched her 4th EP Black Heart to an excited audience at St. Patrick's Irish Club on Friday 22nd November. 

She began writing songs, from the age of 12, from experiences she'd had from difficult times of acceptance and her ability to read situations. 

And after just a year of performing live, she began recording and released her debut EP ‘jealous eyes', which led on to the second release ‘Take a Look at me Now'. She launched her third EP ‘Broken Reflection' in October 2017 and shortly after began working closely with a London based studio perfecting her artistry releasing the single "Twenty-Three" in 2018, prior to this latest EP 'Black Heart'. 

Taylor-Louise has achieved many successes including BBC Coventry &Warwickshire Band of the month, and Spotify's Release Radar for new releases. 

The launch night included two support bands (Evergreen and Chalk Drawings) with lots of other local performers in the audience, including Levi Washington. 

First up on stage was Evergreen who are a throwback to the 1960s and 1970s with their guitar and ukulele and close harmonies, in the style of Crosbie, Stills, Nash & young or Fleetwood Mac.

 It features Rikki Hansel (guitar, harmonica and vocals), Tyron Hansel (bass & vocals), Noah Dobbie (guitar, ukulele, mandolin and vocals) & Erin O'Rourke (guitar) and is the fourth singer in their quadruple harmonies along with Jez Walker (drums). Jez Walker also supports Taylor-Louise on percussion at smaller venues. 

Even though they have been together less than one year they won the "Godiva Calling" competition at the Coventry event so they could play on the Main Stage. 

For this evening's event they played a selection of their songs including ‘You got to Move', ‘Walking Disaster', ‘Spare Change', ‘Midnight Run', ‘Confusion (slight paranoia)' and finished with their newly released single ‘Sunny Lady'. They are in the middle of recording an EP with 14 records at their studio in Leamington Spa which should be out in January 2020. 

After a short break for delicious and spicy food from local outlet Millennium Balti, up on stage came Chalk Drawings. 

They were playing as a three-piece band with Kev Stanley (drums), Dan Holford (guitar) and Simon Dagger (guitar and vocals). As a band they have been going for 6 years and brought out a well-received album Grand Union in 2017. 

They played a set of both their own material as well as some well-known covers with lead singer Simon giving his all and drummer Kev showing off with his red and green lit drum sticks. Their own songs included ‘Blood, Sweat & tears' and ‘Halcyon Days', ‘Right as Rain' and ‘Drip Dry'. The covers included 'Valerie' (The Zutons), ‘Umbrella' (Rihanna) and ‘Zephyr Song' (Red Hot chilli Peppers). 

With the lighting now set the audience was ready for the main event of the evening with the launch of Taylor-Louise's new EP ‘Black Heart'. 

For the first third (and last third) of the event, she was joined on stage by her band consisting of Callum McKissock (bass), Sean Clarke (guitar) and Thomas Graham (drums). Taylor-Louise was singing and playing acoustic guitar. 

The first section included two songs from the new EP ‘Blessed with a Curse' and ‘Generation Now' along with ‘Bring me to Life', ‘Just to be Alive' and ‘Put into Words'. 

Taylor-Louise with her band put out a powerful sound with passionate vocals to these songs.

The middle section was Taylor-Louise on her on singing with her guitar and included a dedication to her very supportive Mum Melanie with ‘Mama Told Me' along with ‘Air to Breathe' and ‘Ink my Skin' before the band joined her again for new songs from her EP. This included recent single ‘Twenty Three' with its powerful and reflective vocals, ‘Gone' and the EP title track ‘Black Heart'. After tremendous applause, from the St. Patricks Irish Club crowd, at the end of her set she finished with an encore with ‘More to Us'. 

Taylor-Louise's next gig is at Temperence in Leamington Spa on 15th February 2020, though she will continue to write new material, which she will try out at gigs to an appreciative audience.

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Taylor-Louise & Abz Winter

Review

Another cracking evening which saw the grand musical talent of Warwickshire displayed on several levels.

Two of the most exciting local artists whose stars are shooting indeed: both with great futures but the nice thing for the broader scene is they are wholly individual: they complemented each other rather than sounding similar.

 

First up was the rapidly emerging Abz Winter, a sixteen year old whose name you can't miss if you study the HillzFM local charts (her song "Summer Sun" has topped them for weeks), or listen to BBC Coventry & Warwickshire. I learn too that that connoisseur of local music, Sam McNulty has invited her onto two separate stages at next week's Godiva Festival (as indeed he has headliner Taylor-Louise) and I aim to see both performances.

So why are all these experienced music lovers getting so excited over such a young musician? Well I detect several possible reasons. Her voice is very distinctive: powerful & attractive and Abz uses it well. Secondly despite her years, she is already a good writer: her songs while presumably influenced by her favourite artists are distinctive & resemble no single template. They flow with boundless energy & enthusiasm & the lyrics while full of great pop hooks are not repetitive in a negative way. She also has good quality control: rather than to try at this stage of her career to fill the set with originals, she makes sure those played are high quality, with no filler & is content to complete the list with covers for now: several by her favourite, Meghan Trainor. If there are themes, apart from a zest for life, the songs written or chosen do look at personal identity & image. It is also interesting how she has worked on her writing with Fred Cox (who has worked with Grace Carter, Paloma Faith, Idris Elba and Rag N Bone Man) and with Jess Glynne's manager: I think one can safely guess that they would not spend their time with anyone unless they rated them highly.

Another aspect of Abz's quality control is her onstage critique of the quality of a few of her backing tracks: she is delightfully candid about this & clearly complacency is not part of her vision. Her onstage persona is equally delightful: she has an easy & humorous rapport with the audience & a slightly self deprecating wit. Personally I found her voice at its very best on the quieter tracks or those with more subdued backing: shorn of sound from elsewhere she unleashed its full power (on one song actually abandoning the mic entirely for a long portion). She has several interesting vocal mannerisms already & on the covers did not copy the original performances but made them her own.

You can catch up with all things Abz Winter at her pages here:

 

http://www.abzwinterofficial.com/

https://www.facebook.com/abzwinterofficial/

 

Apart from her two Godiva appearances, live outings for Abz  in the immediate future include Saturday 29th June, at HillzFM, on Sunday 30th she is at Rugby's Got Talent at 12 and Kenilworth Carnival at 5 pm.

What then about Taylor-Louise which I have not previously said in several earlier reviews in this magazine? Well most aspects of her artistry have developed to be honest. The first thing I think it is important to restate is my point about how Taylor-Louise supports & mentors others: hence Abz's presence tonight. This transcends individual circumstances as it helps sustain the local music scene & touches so many others.

I have also said how prolific a writer she is, but even so, I was astounded by tonight's setlist. Taylor-Louise played two sets at this venue in February, mostly of brand new material. However tonight, in a wholly original set, I only counted four songs from the previous gig, mostly from her current "Black Heart" EP and associated recent singles (this evening actually was the launch day for the latest single "Gone" which naturally was performed). Seven at least I had never previously heard live: most were brand new as live pieces & several more had not been played in a long time. I had thought the "Black Heart" songs were a quantum leap forward but you should hear the new material (and I gather she is writing & recording yet more songs which didn't make the cut last night). Mostly if not entirely in her signature themes of self reflection & philosophical musing morphing into positive action planning & advice to others, the cream on the cake was a previously unheard song "Him', coaxed out of Taylor-Louise only as a second encore, this great song is quite unlike anything else in her repertoire: a bit folky & even rather Spanish in sound: it sounded wonderful on a solo guitar & I wonder how she might record it: it certainly worked really well in this sparse format.

Yet another aspect is the strength of her songs in terms of flexibility of arrangement. She played tonight with the splendid accompaniment of percussionist Jeremy Walker & it was difficult to remember sometimes that it was only two of them, so seamlessly did they weave around each other: especially as Jeremy had barely heard some songs & several was as new to him as they were to me. The changed arrangements of the "Black Heart" songs tended to bring out more of the compassionate side of their lyrics. It was interesting how in the soundcheck, they played a gentler version of "Generation Now' than on the record, though the way they later played it in the gig itself was a bit closer to the overwhelming intensity and rawness of the single.

 Finally, on a personal note, Taylor-Louise kindly dedicated their rendition of the song she let us use on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume One", namely "Put In To Words" to me: so I am keen to express my appreciation here..

Apart from her two Godiva appearances, live outings for Taylor-Louise in the immediate future include July 4th & September 5th at the Fat Pug & 20th and 21st July at the Fab Fest at the Old Tramway in Stratford.

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"Gone" by Taylor-Louise

Review

If you are counting, you'll have spotted that the new single "Gone" is the third single to be released from Taylor-Louise's stunning "Black Heart" EP & it will be released next Friday.

The last one, "Generation Now" she described as "....one of my most personal, hard hitting and vulnerable songs" and it was indeed a powerful & personal song but one which took her own journey & the challenges she encountered upon it & offered her insights as a guide to others. (She is after all a teacher too!)

 

"Gone" displays a lighter approach (probably wisely: as the first single from the EP "Blessed With A Curse" was also emotionally very intense, to have a third at the same level of passionate reflection would have been very over-powering for one EP) though it should be said that all three songs are actually very uplifting ultimately & clearly intended to be so. It's just  that the first two took trips through the darkness to reach the light while "Gone" starts there.... admittedly it appears to be a song about the break up of a relationship but it is however sung from the perspective of hindsight when the protagonist is both healing & able to pass a sympathetic judgement. Once again, in line with the rest of the EP, the reflections seem more designed to be advice to the listener than the admonishments to the person addressed directly in the lyrics.

Musically it is more poppy than its immediate predecessors with a cheerful & catchy guitar motif you'll hopefully like as much as I do. The tone & feel are quite "summery" which I imagine had a lot to do with the release date decision and given Taylor-Louise's popularity with radio stations will be destined for significant airplay.

 

You can catch Taylor-Louise at the Queen's Hall in Nuneaton on June 23rd in aid of MIND (an all day event)  and then at Temperance in Leamington on June 28th supported by Abz Winter

Again the striking sleeve design is by Ayse Herring of Wildflower Design as is that of the parent EP and the two earlier singles: indeed they all constitute a complementing set.

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Taylor-Louise news

News

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"Blessed With A Curse" by Taylor-Louise

Review

I feel doubly privileged in that I had the pleasure of hearing Taylor-Louise play her forthcoming single "Blessed With A Curse" at her recent concert ...
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Taylor-Louise & Naomi-Beth at the Magic Lantern

Review

What a treat last evening at the Magic Lantern venue at Temperance.
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"Twenty-Three" by Taylor-Louise

Review

There can be no doubt that anyone who loves local music is united in recognising one of the fastest emerging significant artists from Coventry & ...
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