Recently RUST magazine enthusiastically reviewed Joe Taylor’s seventh album, Sugardust in the Devil Wind, and we loved it. We loved it so much we reached out to Joe to ask him a couple questions about it, so here he is in his own words:
RUST: Joe, what a great album. It really has a unique feel to it. What was behind your intention to make a themed album like this?
JT: Thank-you, Eric. My earlier releases on RCA Victor, were, as they say, “genrespecific”. In my case, the genre was Contemporary (Smooth) Jazz, and I was very fortunate to have some success in that area. Awhile back, after my last RCA release, I needed a break from the hustle of NYC and I took a few of years off, built a log house and studio on a little island back in my home state (SC), married a terrific woman and gained a new perspective… on my music, life, etc., so, I got some new material together and did a residency back in NYC at The Living Room. It was there I discovered that my roots were finally showing… Rock, R&B, Twang… anything but smooth”. Someone from the Village Voice said I sounded like a “Redneck Jeff Beck”, which I took as high praise, so I started recording the new stuff bit by bit for my new label Moonwatcher Records, and Sugardust in the Devil Wind was the result.
RUST: You really have a focus to your playing style, how happy are you with where your skills are, both for songwriting and performing right now?
JT: I’m pretty happy. As an instrumental trio, we have to make a serious effort to entertain with the guitar as the vocal, and the band and I happily work hard to do that. We recently did a festival with Trombone Shorty and Earth, Wind and Fire, and after my set I ran into Troy (Trombone Shorty) in the green room. He told me “I was backstage and heard y’all tearing it up, so I walked around the corner and looked and thought: Whoa! There’s only three of them? Wow!”
To answer your question, I feel like my chops are better than ever, and even though I have been at this awhile, I learn something new every single time I pick up the instrument, and that’s a blessing. It also doesn’t hurt to be playing with two wild men like (bassist) Sean O’Bryan Smith and (drummer) Blair Shotts.
RUST: Who are some of the people that helped make Sugardust in the Devil Wind the album it is?
JT: The record is pretty much a live-in-the-studio recording of the trio. That amazing bass stuff is from my pal Sean O’Bryan Smith. Sean is an acclaimed session player (Lady A, Larry Carlton, Esperanza Spaulding) and is part of that bass Mafia which includes Victor Wooten, Quintin Berry and Vail Johnson. On drums I have Steve Holley (Wings, Joe Cocker, Junior Brown) and Tony “Thunder” Smith (Jeff Beck, Santana, Lou Reed). I have been friends with Steve and Tony for 25 years, and they have played on almost all of my records.
I regret that my friend and drummer Blair Shotts was not on this record; but at the time he was out in LA working with Rhianna and Pharrell. Rest assured he will be on the next one, and I am thrilled to have he and Sean on the road with me.
The album was engineered and mixed by my friends Mark Richardson (The Strokes, Fat Joe) and Chris Theis (Santana, Shakira). I have worked with both of them since the 90’s, too. I am fortunate to have such a great team of old friends who happen to be masters of their craft.
RUST: The album is divided into 2 sections, kind of like an “old” album. What was your thinking in making it into 2 chapters?
JT: That’s an old school nod… I miss having albums with cover art and liner-notes that I can pick up and read while listening to the two distinct sides. We almost put in a goofy audio break at the end of side one on the cd, but Tom Petty already did that.
Don’t get me wrong; I fully embrace the digital and streaming paradigm. Moonwatcher is even going to release copies of SDW on customized thumb-drives. Now, if we could only figure out how to get paid for our records… 🙂
RUST: Thanks so much for talking to us, last question, is there anybody in particular you’d like to thank for their support along the way to where you are at today?
JT: Yes. I am greatly indebted to my late friend and manager Steven M. Gates, who was instrumental in clearing my path since the RCA days, and passed away before he could hear Sugardust in the Devil Wind, which is dedicated to him.
Get more info here: http://thejoetaylorgroup.com/