Sweet Grown Man James
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Hard to believe we've waited 13 years for new James Taylor songs, but "Before This World" was well worth the wait. His voice, still pure and world-weary has changed little over the decades, even matured a bit, The songs are comfortable, like your old blue jeans. He waxes nostalgic on "Stretch Of The Highway," touches a political nerve on "Far Afghanistan," and lays claim to an oldie for "Wild Mountain Thyme."
This is aural comfort food, impeccably produced with some lush orchestrations and often offering breathing space between the singer and his songs (IMHO a lost art among many current artists). The harmonies are lovely and there's even a drop by from Sting (on the title track). I particularly like "Angels Of Fenway," a tribute both to his Grandmother and a salute to the 2004 World Series winning Boston Red Sox. As a fellow member of Red Sox Nation, I've been wanting to hear the studio version ever since he sang it live at Fenway Park in early May (broadcast on NESN). I was not disappointed.
"Somehow I haven't died," James croons over the opening mellow folksiness of "Today Today Today." "Before the World" often looks back at his life, and to our benefit, James sound confident enough that maybe the next album will come before a 13 year gap occurs. But for now, enjoy "Before This World." Where singer/songwriters are concerned, there just isn't anyone to compare to James Taylor.