By Joshua Stevens
As artists grow older, many of them choose to focus their music and art on their own mortality. In the years past their prime, they shift from lighthearted lyrics to more serious tales of death and regret. Except, singer-songwriter James Taylor doesn’t do that. On his newest album, “American Standard,” Taylor focuses mostly on more positive material, and the album both prospers and suffers as a result.
This album is loaded with cheerful, sunny lyrics and traditional love songs. It bounces along merrily, strengthened by some great word painting from Taylor. “As Easy as Rolling Off a Log” describes how easy it is to love his girl, and “Moon River” and “Pennies in Heaven” have beautiful imagery in the lyrics, from sunny skies to stormy nights. On this front, the album is fairly enjoyable.
Then comes the song “Ol’ Man River” towards the end of the album. The best song on the album, it is the only track where the 71-year-old Taylor faces the issue of mortality. Comparing growing old to a running stream of water, Taylor says the only thing he can do is “keep rolling along,” just like the ol’ man river. It’s a melancholy yet content look at life, and Taylor tells the story beautifully.
This fantastic song begs the question why the rest of the album does not tackle this theme. No longer the young gun singing of fire and rain, Taylor focuses on the lighter side of things too often in this album. It makes for an enjoyable album, but distracts from Taylor’s current state.
For James Taylor fans, “American Standard” offers enough likeable tunes to keep them satisfied. For those longing for something more, the album can be frustrating as Taylor rarely addresses more relevant themes.
Josh’s rating – 6.3/10
Joshua Stevens is a senior journalism major and sports writer for Cedars. He enjoys rooting for the Tennessee Titans and listening to old-school music.
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