January 23, 2006
Lewis Taylor Coming to NY for First American Concert
Like most Okayplayer charter members, I've been in the Cult of Lewis Taylor for a good 5 years now. But none of us here in the states ever had a chance to see him in person until this Thursday night, when he hits the Bowery Ballroom. He's also doing a couple of appearances on Friday night, if everything goes according to plan: One on te Conan O-Brien show, and one on WBAI with yours truly. Here's some coverage of his visit in Sunday NY Times:
Playing all the instruments, Mr. Taylor achieves a sexy, shimmering blend of Curtis Mayfield funk, Brian Wilson harmonies and Jimi Hendrix guitar. He used to record for Island Records, but the label dropped him after a second album in 2000. Since then he has been content with a cult of fans, and sporadically released music through his own label, Slow Reality (an anagram of his name).
Then Michael Nieves of the small HackTone label approached him about rereleasing "Stoned," a 2002 album, through an imprint dedicated to forgotten or undiscovered gems. Mr. Taylor, 39, thought it would be a low-key arrangement: "The idea was just to sell these albums, maybe add some new tracks, and then they would give me the money," he said.
But "Stoned" began to win a new following after its fall release, and Mr. Taylor has found himself cautiously becoming more active. "It's creeping up," he said. "I'm being persuaded to do more, after I vowed that I would do nothing at all."
Mr. Taylor's music had not been released outside England before, but this album is being played by tastemakers in the United States like the D.J. Nic Harcourt. "The difference this time is the song 'Stoned, Pt. 1,' " said Mr. Harcourt, host of "Morning Becomes Eclectic" on KCRW, the public radio station in Santa Monica, Calif. He said there were only "a handful of songs every year that elicit the type of reaction that this track has received from our audience."
The West Coast airplay has led to his American debut, on Thursday at the Bowery Ballroom, followed by a visit to "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" next week. Typical of Mr. Taylor's limited aspirations, that's the extent of his foray here, and even then, he has misgivings. "The trepidation was in being involved in the promotion," he said. "I had left that behind, and I was getting more involved in doing the more grown-up things behind the scenes."
He seems just as wary about his live appearances: "The performance side is an entirely different aspect," he said, "and I've discovered that it really isn't what I like."
This month, he warmed up with sold-out dates in a London club, struggling all the while with his own sense of dignity. "It's like putting on a pair of tight jeans that you forgot to throw away," he said. "On a bad day, I really do feel like I'm standing there in a dress - like, what am I doing here?"