Originally posted March 13, 2016
James Taylor, Before This World (Concord Music, 2015)
In 1918, the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, and Sox fans waited another 86 years for their team to win the World Series. Taylor's "Angels of Fenway" celebrates the breaking of the "Bambino curse" when the 2004 Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals. "Angels of Fenway" is a beautiful song, not least due to the choir's plaintive pleading and the image of grandma dying with a smile on her face. It is particularly fitting on Before This World, Taylor’s own return — this is his first collection of new songs since 2002, and his first number one debut on Billboard’s Hot 200.
Taylor talks about writing palliative songs, and links it to his battles with addiction. In "Someone Watching Over Me" he marvels at his survival, which has left him with a sense of gratitude, and an ability to communicate goodness: the “holy ground” of marriage (“You and I Again”); the wonder of creation (“Montana,” “Before This World/Jolly Springtime”). In “Snow Time,” Taylor sings about a cold wintry night in Toronto, the music of some textile workers from Mexico, and a guitarist whose “every note was an antidote to December.” That phrase is a fitting description of James Taylor’s own music and the comfort it brings.