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A songwriter returns to The Dalles, a guitar returns to Texas, and a blogger confuses one songwriter with another guitar player.

June 10, 2009

OK let’s try and get this straight. When I received notice that Eric Taylor was coming back to the Gorge for a concert, I was sure that I’ve seen him before. I was so sure, that in the third question of my original interview I asked Eric about a really famous song that I thought he had written, that was covered by a really famous band.

Only problem was, Eric didn’t write it and yours truly was confusing Eric Taylor with Steve Young. Young wrote Seven Bridges Road, and the song was a hit for The Eagles, back in the 80s. And my ticket stub from October 17, 2002, proves that I saw Steve in the same place Eric will be later next week. 2002?! No wonder I was confused, seven years is a long time!

When I realized my goof, I felt like such a clod. I mean, I suppose it’s like getting a big interview with, say, Led Zeppelin, and asking the guys, “So, how did you manage to come up with Freebird?” After some blank stares, they probably would have said the same thing Eric did – “Well, I didn’t write that, but I wish I did!”

Well, I’m sure Eric got a chuckle out of that, but to his credit he knew right away who I was trying to confuse him with. It just goes to show you that the top songwriting talent from Texas must keep tabs on each other and, from time to time, manage to support each other when they can.

For example, Eric happens to be a friend of Steve Earle. Earle just released a new album of Townes Van Zant covers, and Eric said that he talked to Earle during that process. Eric probably helped out Steve by, oh, I don’t know, maybe helping to choose material for the album, or maybe gave advice on where to record, or maybe just got to reminisce about old times.

And speaking of old times, we’ll just have to mention 1943. You see, that’s the year that the Gibson guitar company built an acoustic guitar that by hook and crook, made it to Texas, and eventually to Oregon. After getting so physically beat up through over-use, it recently had to spend a few months in rehab in White Salmon, of all places, to get lovingly restored. From Oregon, it travelled back to Texas, to, well, you know where this is going – that’s right, Eric Taylor.

In these interviews I usually ask folks who they are listening to, and who they like to hang out with. It always amazes me to the musical connections that can be made, so now, let’s have some fun with names, all culled from Eric’s interview. Here’s what I know:

Eric mentions Nanci Griffith, who will be in Portland in August. He also mentions Todd Snider, whom I noticed this year will be at Bonnaroo (the huge mega festival headlining every band in the world). David Jacobs-Strain, from Oregon, will be playing this summer in Savannah, Georgia, of all places. And the reason I know this is because I had to do some research on a certain folk singer who will be playing Stevenson, Wash., in August. More on that later, stay tuned.

But for now, let’s focus on next week and learn a little more about Eric Taylor, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll bring that guitar back to Oregon with a new set of songs, adding to the musical history the instrument has already provided.

Eric Taylor will be at The Dalles Civic Auditorium on Thursday, June 18, at 7 p.m. Tickets available at Columbia River Music.

Read Jim’s interview with Eric Taylor here:

An interview with Eric Taylor

Jim:

Thanks for being in touch. There are several of Steve's [Steve Young] songs that I wish I'd written. Any case, here we go. You may have to correct some soiling. The guitar thing....I know that I sound somewhat vague, but I don't have permission to use names at this point. I'll just hope you'll understand.

It's a very heartfelt story, but I want to protect the privacy.

1. You seem to be a regular here in The Gorge, playing The Dalles every year or so, and I’m sure I’ve seen one of your past shows. Where does this current tour take you around the Northwest?

I've come up to Oregon every year for the last four or five years. I like the countryside and I like the people and the shows. I've made some good friends. I'm hitting Idaho, as well. The Boise area, Pocatello, Blackfoot and Salmon. In Oregon, it's Joseph The Dalles. Sisters and Richmond. It's all on the website. bluerubymusic.com. Any case, I'm looking forward to it.

2. OK, let’s talk about guitars. My friend, Craig Wilson, recently restored a pretty special instrument for you. How did you come across that instrument and how is it working out for you?

Yes, Craig Wilson at White Salmon Guitar over in Washington did a beautiful job. He did all the research on the rebuild and stayed as close to perfecting this 1943 Gibson Texas Jumbo as a person can get.

The guitar is a story all to itself, and I'm still looking to find out more about it. I can assure you that I feel more like a caretaker for this guitar and its story than a feeling of ownership. Well, here's part of the story...........

A wonderful woman from your area spent a lot of time in Texas and loving the music, years ago. Much of this time was spent with her close friend, a woman that played the circuit of towns and joints and blues halls and icehouses and Sunday blues picnics.....man, it goes on and on.

This wonderful woman from your area made a promise to her ailing friend that she would, someday, get her guitar back to Texas and have it once again make music in Texas. I can tell you that I was honored to tears to be given this job of caretaker.

There's some thought that the guitar came from a pawnshop in Lubbock, Texas. There's some irony, I suppose, that the first song being written by me with this guitar is a song about Lubbock. I'm sure the story will continue. My plan is have as many Texas writers and singers play it, most probably in the studio.

3. You’ve worked with the likes of Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith. Do you guys keep in touch and do you get to see each other as often as you’d like?

Everybody's on the road so we don't get to see much of each other, but we do talk from time to time. Steve and I talked on the phone as he was thinking about the Townes record. Nanci and I talk from time to time and she sang with Todd Snider and Peter Cooper when they covered a couple of my songs. Small world spinnin' faster and faster, I guess.

4. Last month, Texas band The Flatlanders came to Portland, and I was lucky enough to go and enjoy that show. It seems like you may be in the same circles as those guys. Do you get to cross paths with any of them?

Pretty much the same answer. We might run the same circles, but we all runnin' the different directions.

5. What new and upcoming artists do you listen to?

There's not that many, to be truthful. I love the work of Malcolm Holcolmb and David Jacobs-Strain. They may be up and coming. Kelly Joe Phelps is always somewhere in my head but he's not up and comin', he's up and swingin' and dodgin' and weavin'. Lowell George. Keith Richards. Lightnin' Hopkins.

6. Tell us a little about your songwriting process – does the music or lyrics come first?

I don't seem to have any hard and fast rules of process. I keep piles of notes and I keep pieces of music around in notebooks and tapes. Since most of my work is story and history, it remains a challenge to understand how it comes together. I can say that I wouldn't trust any writer that tells me they know exactly what they're doin'.

7. In addition to playing music, what else do you like to spend your time doing?

When I'm home and off the road, a typical life of crime suits me. When I come to Oregon, I fly-fish.

Thanks Eric, and good luck with your shows!

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