The burden of the past would seem to weigh heavily on anyone who dared to follow in the footsteps of giants like Carly Simon and James Taylor. But Benjamin Taylor, the son of these two legends, wears his blue-chip musical pedigree as lightly as a pair of broken-in jeans. His music carries the values of his parents’ generation-tuneful, distinctive vocals, meaningful and universally available lyrics, and emotional directness-into the century and territory of postmodern pop. On The Legend of Kung Folk, his third release for Iris Records, Taylor captures the irresistible lilt and bounce of such contemporaries as ALO, Donavon Frankenreiter, and Jack Johnson, and infuses it with the unmistakable sweetness of his fantastic voice, which bears elegant traces of both mom and pop. Taylor currently is on a huge national tour that will hit the heart of the Midwest, the heights of the Rockies, and our own shores within just a few days. When I spoke to him, he was at a truck stop on Route 80 somewhere west of-well, why don’t I let him tell it.
This is quite a tour you are on. Where are you now? Honestly, I have no idea. Okay, I do have some idea-we’re at a giant truck stop. I think it’s the world’s largest truck stop, and I know that it has to be somewhere between Rock Island, Illinois, and Des Moines, Iowa. They are cleaning the bus here.
So you have some time to kill? Yeah, I guess. I just bought some stuff.
What did you get? I got a spaghetti Western coat in that real heavy oilcloth that’s beautiful, and a spiked club.
Sounds dangerous-the club I mean. Do you plan to use it? I would only use the club as a comedic prop. It’s not my weapon of choice, if that’s what you’re asking. Like, if we were to duel, I would not say, “20 paces, spiked clubs.”
Good, me neither. I’m glad we have settled that. No worries.
The country’s going through some big changes. What’s your impression of the mood of Middle America? It’s still just about America here, and not so much about mood. I love touring in the bus and playing all over the country because it makes you realize that no matter how obscure a place may be, there is still going to be something beautiful about it that will make you smile. I dream about relaxing sometimes because the schedule is so tight, but I know tomorrow I will be someplace else that’s amazing, and playing feels so good.
What’s the live show like in relation to the material on your new CD? We have good chemistry in the band now as a result of recording and then touring, which really allows you to hit your stride, which I feel we have done. The material actually extends well beyond the record we just released because when the tour is over, we are going right back into the studio. We plan to record two more CDs this time, and then go to England and tour there.
Wow, that’s a lot of music, and a lot of touring. How have you managed to write so much? I have great friends and musicians around me. Thinking about them just makes me glow. And I live on Martha’s Vineyard, which is a great place to be creative and keeps me close to my family.
Any last words before you get back on the bus? Sure-the best is yet to come.
The Ben Taylor Band will appear with opener Schuyler Fisk at SOhO (1221 State St.) on Tuesday, February 24, at 8 p.m. For tickets and info, call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.