While California-based Dulcie Taylor’s music is new to this listener, the veteran singer-songwriter has numerous albums released over the past two decades. Taylor’s music reminds us of when we first heard Kimmie Rhodes, Shawn Colvin, and yes, even Lucinda Williams long ago. That Taylor isn’t the household name those artists are has nothing to do with the quality of her writing or singing.
“Watch Me Hurt” was the first song to grab my attention: the anguish of the lover being taken advantage of by a malicious heart is palatable. “I thank you for the lesson learned, people can be cruel—set you on fire just to watch you burn” she sings in the song’s final stanza, one replete with a refrain that reveals the casual infliction of cruelty—”I know you broke my heart on purpose, you needed to watch me hurt.”
Taylor doesn’t have too many songs of satisfaction and bliss on Better Part of Me, her seventh release (as best as I can tell). For some, the song titles tell part of the tale—”Long Gone,” “Hearts Have to Break” (a rustic, homey duet with producer and long-time collaborator George Naufel), and “The Moon Is Cold”—but Taylor’s songs go beyond the simple hook and cutting catch phrase, revealing the nuance and complexity of relationships.
To counterbalance the darkness, Taylor offers “I Do” (“You don’t ever have to wonder who has got your back—I promise you, I do”) and “God Did Me A Favor.” The lucidity of her voice is striking throughout the album, perhaps no more so than on the closing title track. Unlike some singers—and here, the last decade or more of Williams’ music comes to mind—Taylor artfully presents her words as important enough to articulate fully. Singing of understanding, struggles, hope, and honesty, Taylor conveys her regard for her art and her audience.
Having been inopportunely called away just as the album started its initial play a couple weeks ago, I missed the immediately satisfying opening number “Used To Know It All,” a terrific lead track. Like much of the album, this is a guitar-rich song that pulls in the listener, reminding me a little of Marshall Chapman’s most recent music: aware, self-deprecating, and absolutely stellar.
Sticking largely to what used to be sometimes referenced as folk or MOR sounds, Taylor saves her greatest rancour for us and the world we have created. On the country-ish “Halfway To Jesus,” Taylor takes us all to task for a world that is suffering from our influence, preaching “It ain’t like we haven’t been warned, now we’re living through thousand years storms; looking back, where does that leave us?” The answer is, naturally, on a journey to the ever after.
Dulcie Taylor is a new voice, to me. Discover her if you haven’t; she is worth the search.