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Album Review

When one hears the phrase "with strings," the first things that come to mind are the recordings that Charlie Parker, Wes Montgomery, Chet Baker, and other jazz greats made with lush string orchestras. Austin, TX-based violinist/viola player Will Taylor does appreciate jazz; he has cited Duke Ellington as one of the arrangers who has been an inspiration to him. But for the most part, what transpires on this CD is folk-rock. Recorded over a six-year period from 1999-2005, Collaborations spotlights a series of acoustic-oriented concerts that Taylor calls Strings Attached. When well-known singer/songwriters pass through Austin while on tour, Taylor gets them to perform additional concerts without their regular touring bands — and the band he uses instead emphasizes string instruments. As of the summer of 2005, the Austin venue of choice for Taylor's Strings Attached series was St. David's Episcopal Church — although some of these live performances were recorded at other venues in the Texas city. But whatever the venue, Collaborations is excellent — and this release is consistently rewarding whether Taylor is joining forces with Shawn Colvin on the haunting "Set the Prairie on Fire," Ruthie Foster on the bluesy "Ocean of Tears," Barbara K. (of Timbuk 3 fame) on the moody "You Can't Kill Me," or Slaid Cleaves on the optimistic "For the Brave." Again, folk-rock is the album's orientation, but the influence of '30s jazz is quite strong when Libby Kirkpatrick (herself a folk-rocker) performs her song "In This Life"; the performance has Hoagy Carmichael, Billie Holiday, and Mildred Bailey written all over it. Austin is known for having a great music scene, and this fine album gives listeners no reason to think otherwise.

Collaborations, Will Taylor & Strings Attached
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