Friday, May 6

519MAGAZINE.COM — When I Grow Up I Wanna Be Like James Taylor Was in London, Ontario

By Dan Savoie

When I grow up, I wanna be just like James Taylor was at his show in London, Ontario. At 74, the iconic singer-songwriter has more energy than my 54-year-old self will ever have. His recent concert at Budweiser Gardens in London on April 30 was evidence of a man who enjoys life, performance and the ideology of a good song. He was also joined by Jackson Browne, a headliner in his own right.

With a nearly two-hour performance that saw Taylor moving and jumping much like the 50-year-olds touring out there, his 519 area fans were not disappointed. Having to wait two years to see the legendary performer hit the Forest City was the furthest thing from their minds once the first couple words of Country Road came bursting out across the arena.

It was as good a James Taylor set as you’d ever get. With 19 studio albums and countless other recordings to choose from, one can never be truly satisfied, but this setlist covered all the basis, including a stellar version of Easy as Rollin’ Off a Log, a rare 1930s song from the Warner Brothers cartoon Katnip Kollege he covered on his last album American Standard.

His voice is still silky and smooth and he even had a little fun with facial expressions and body movements with his blues parody Steamroller Blues, which originally appeared on his 1970s album Sweet Baby James.

One of the reasons this tour is amongst the best out there is Taylor’s touring band, which includes an A-list of studio and touring musicians, such as horn player Lou Marini (best known from his days in The Blues Brothers, on Saturday Night Live and with Blood Sweat and Tears); percussionist Luis Conte (Phil Collins, rod Stewart, Madonna and more); guitarist Michael Landau (Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd and others); pianist Larry Goldings (his list is so long, it would take this whole article just to list them); keyboardist and horns by Walt Fowler (Matchbox Twenty to Nancy Sinatra to The Dark Knight soundtrack); bassist Jimmy Johnson (Peter Cetera, Ray Charles, Roger Waters and many others); Michito Sanchez (one of Los Angeles’ top studio and live percussionists); drummer Steve Gadd (Simon & Garfunkel, Eric Clapton, Chick Corea and many others); and keyboardist Kevin Hayes (Bob Beldon, Eddie Henderson and more). It truly is an all-star band.

Joining Taylor on vocals were long-time backup singers Kate Markowitz, Arnold McCuller and Dorian Holley. Between the four of them (including Taylor), the four vocalists have performed on hundreds of records and worked with a wide array of musicians including Bonnie Raitt, Phil Collins, Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Todd Rundgren, George Jones, Luther Vandross, Billy Joel, and Cher.

The four-song encore, which allowed the vocalists to step up front, included a gorgeous version of his tender song Shed A Little Light. For many, this was a highlight and the point when they took to their feet. The team of vocalists had a chance to shine on the track.

Jackson Browne London, Ontario April 30-22Photo: Dan Savoie
Jackson Browne performs live at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario on April 30, 2022.
Taylor was joined by his special guest Jackson Browne for the remaining three encores, which included the Eagles mega-hit Take It Easy, originally written by Browne and Glen Frey. The show closed with the hit You’ve Got A Friend and the touching You Can Close Your Eyes, which Taylor wrote for his then-girlfriend Joni Mitchell while they were in New Mexico for Taylor’s acting debut in the 1971 film Two-Lane Blacktop.

At this point, it became crystal clear. I must strive to be James Taylor for the rest of my life.

Guest, Jackson Browne, performed a modest 11-song set filled with sprinkles from throughout his career. Fans knew it was going to be a good show when he opened with Somebody’s Baby, a 1982 hit song from the soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Browne, who’s just one year short of Taylor, is a bit more of a rocker at heart. His scruffy beard was a bit of a surprise for fans that might not have seen him live since the 80s or 90s, but that’s the only place where Browne’s age shows. It felt much like a Browne concert in the 90s, as was much of the material.

Three of the songs, tossed into the middle of the set, were from his last album Downhill from Everywhere, an album that doesn’t get the recognition is should, due to the pandemic. Fans were a bit more passionate about well-known songs like Somebody’s Baby, the 1972 hit Doctor My Eyes, 1978’s Running On Empty and the 1977 choice cut The Pretender. It would have been great to hear hits like Boulevard and Lawyers In Love, but for a shortened set, this was a fan-pleasing time-capsule.

For Browne’s last two songs, he was joined by Taylor in engaging versions of The Pretender and Running On Empty.


Friday, April 29

BROADWAYWORLD.COM — Grammy Winner James Taylor Announced as Speaker at New England Conservatory 151st Commencement

By Chloe Rabinowitz

New England Conservatory President Andrea Kalyn and the Board of Trustees announced multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor as the commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient at the Conservatory’s 151st annual commencement exercises, which will be held in-person on Sunday, May 22, 2022 at 2:00 p.m.

The ceremonies will take place in historic Jordan Hall and will be streamed on NEC’s website ( NEC will bestow honorary Doctor of Music (hon. D.M.) degrees on: James Taylor, who will deliver his commencement address at Jordan Hall, as well as David Amram, noted conductor and composer, and Ella Jenkins, regarded as the “First Lady of Children’s Music.” Pianist Emanuel Ax, who received an honorary degree from NEC in 2021, will extend an online greeting at this year’s commencement.

The ceremony also will include a special message from by Ukrainian cellist Denys Karachevtsev, who captured the world’s attention when he played Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5 outside the bombed out remains of the regional police headquarters in the city of Kharkiv in March 2022. For more on Karachevtsev, please visit Washington Post and Reuters.


Monday, April 25

TORONTOSUN.COM — James Taylor talks Canadian tour, Joni Mitchell, new music and retiring

By Jane Stevenson

James Taylor has been walking down a country road for more than five decades now, but the 74-year-old singer-songwriter can still see the horizon in the distance.

In fact, Taylor is currently in Canada on a 12-date trek that includes a May 1 stop at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, with Jackson Browne opening.

“I guess once you sort of start reaching these lofty figures, you start thinking about, ‘How long can this go on?’ ” said the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, down the line from his Martha’s Vineyard home while in pre-tour mode.

“But it’s my main thing. The centre of my life is touring and playing for my audience. I still love doing it and the band is in great shape. I’ve never had any realistic thoughts about (retiring). I know it’s somewhere in the mix.”

Taylor also points to having “role models like Ray Charles and Tony Bennett, people who continued to (make music) — in Tony’s case through his 80s and into his 90s. Same thing with Ray Charles. It’s the most consistent thing — along with family — in my life, and I’m not really quite ready to let it go yet.”

Taylor’s original Canadian trek was supposed to happen in 2020 with Bonnie Raitt opening, but it got sidelined twice by COVID-19. He was able to still get in some U.S. dates with Browne, a pal from their early ’70s Laurel Canyon days. The two are playing in each other’s sets.

“It’s been so great working with Jackson and I think our audiences are a good blend,” said the six-time Grammy winner.

“We were born in the same year (1948), came up around the same time. I never really lived in L.A. I was always an East Coaster myself. But my band was always out there and I recorded out there. So, yeah, there were a couple of intersections such as the Troubadour Cafe, and places where it was sort of predictable that both Jackson and I would end up. And we shared a band for a while. We recorded with the same people and it was a very tight-knit and close group of artists and people in those days.”

Back then, Taylor also dated Canadian Joni Mitchell, whom he was supposed to honour at her recent MusicCares event held in conjunction with the Grammys, which were moved from January in L.A. to April in Las Vegas due to the pandemic.

“I was due to play it when it was in January, but my twins turned 21 that same weekend (in April), so I had to keep our plans to have their birthday celebration,” said Taylor, who shares twins Rufus and Henry (who sang and played on Taylor’s fall tour in the U.S.) with third wife Caroline Smedvig.

“I was scheduled to play her song, The River, her song about Christmas in Los Angeles, such a great tune, and that’s a song I have recorded on a Christmas album I did. And then on that Joni album Blue (1971), which people have been focusing on at its 50-year anniversary, I played on four of those songs — A Case of You, Carey, California, All I Really Want — and the tracks on that album were very sparse, very little instrumentation, so working with Joni … it’s wonderful to listen to that album and sort of relive those days, in the early ’70s.”

As for playing in Canada, the Boston-born Taylor said his daughter Sally, from his first marriage to Carly Simon, and her husband are trying for Canadian citizenship.

“Coming from New England, it’s familiar,” said Taylor. “But at the same time it’s definitely a different place. I don’t know … in many ways, I envy Canadians. Canada has done a better job with so many things. It’s absurd to generalize about it. I can’t really pretend to be an expert or anything, but I love my Canadian audiences. I love the experience of going there, and travelling there. It feels good to me.”

During any COVID-19 lockdowns, Taylor said while it was “awful” not to be able to perform, he enjoyed spending time with his family and did write some new songs. His last album was 2020’s covers album, American Standard.

“I’ve got a bag full of new ideas and songs, musical ideas I’m working on,” he said. “I don’t have particular project in mind yet.”

Taylor, who’s been open about his struggles with depression and heroin addiction (he overcame the latter in 1983), says it probably hasn’t been easy for others who are isolated during the pandemic.

“It’s sort of like a spell was broken,” he said. “I didn’t find that it woke any demons up in me. Always the best cure for me for depression, has been exercise, to get your blood moving. Early on, I found that, particularly for opiate addicts, just physical exercise, get up, take a walk, take hike, go to the gym. It’s easy to say, hard sometimes to do. It definitely was what saved me.”

James Taylor’s remaining Canadian tour dates (He launched his tour April 21 in St. John’s, Nfld.):

April 24 Halifax Scotiabank Centre
April 25 Moncton Avenir Centre
April 27 Ottawa Canadian Tire Centre
April 28 Montreal Bell Centre
April 30 London Budweiser Gardens
May 1 Toronto Scotiabank Arena
May 5 Winnipeg Canada Life Centre
May 7 Calgary Scotiabank Saddledome
May 9 Edmonton Rogers Place
May 11 Victoria Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre
May 12 Vancouver Rogers Arena


Tuesday, January 4

UDISCOVERMUSIC.COM — Watch James Taylor And Son Henry Play ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ On Recent Tour

By Paul Sexton

James Taylor has shared a new video clip of himself and his son Henry performing “You Can Close Your Eyes” live at the Honda Center in Anaheim on October 30. The collaboration came at the end of that night’s show on Taylor’s extensive North American tour with Jackson Browne.

“Henry and I worked up this old tune of mine that we want to leave you with,” the beloved singer-songwriter tells the audience. “Thank you again for making tonight possible for us.”

“You Can Close Your Eyes” was a memorable part of Taylor’s breakthrough 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, and also became the B-side of his US chart-topping single “You’ve Got A Friend.” It had been recorded by his sister Kate, who released it some three months before her brother’s LP was released, on her Sister Kate album.

The song continued to expand its audience when Linda Ronstadt covered it on her own career-changing album of 1974, the Grammy-winning No.1 set Heart Like A Wheel. It has also attracted some 50 versions since, including those by Richie Havens in 1976, Sheryl Crow in 2006, and Taylor’s ex-wife Carly Simon in 2007, with their children Ben and Sally Taylor.

“JT” and Carole King also performed the song on the arena tour that produced their Live At The Troubadour album in 2010. That tour will be commemorarated in Frank Marshall’s imminent documentary Just Call Out My Name, which will premiere on January 2 at 9pm ET on CNN, also livestreaming on CNNgo.

Taylor will be part of the MusiCares 2022 Person of the Year event, as part of its Grammy week activity, in Los Angeles on January 29, honoring another career-long friend, Joni Mitchell. He was himself the recipient of that award in 2006. He will begin his Canadian tour with Browne on April 21, on which dates continue until May 12. James’ delayed European tour will begin in September 2022.


Friday, December 17

LOCALSPINS.COM — James Taylor and Jackson Browne ‘Shower the People’ with nostalgic charm in Grand Rapids

By John Sinkevics

Friday’s tour stop at Van Andel Arena delivered a career-spanning trove of familiar hits by a pair of acclaimed singer-songwriters who still wield spellbinding appeal for longtime fans.

At 73, both James Taylor and Jackson Browne have enjoyed illustrious music careers spanning more than a half-century, with a robust catalog of songs that helped propel folk-rock to new heights starting in the 1970s.

Indeed, they literally defined the term “singer-songwriter,” from “Fire and Rain” and “Doctor, My Eyes” to “Running on Empty” and “Shower the People.”

So pairing these legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famers on tour makes perfect sense, a no-brainer combination especially attractive to baby boomers reared on these familiar voices who once were a staple on radio.

And speaking of voices, Friday’s tour stop at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena proved that these two icons still have plenty to offer fans – especially when backed by exemplary musicians and harmony vocalists.

Indeed, a good part of Browne and band’s opening one-hour-and-11-minute set sounded like it could have been performed three decades ago, with Browne’s impressive vocals and guitarist Mason Stoops’ searing leads gracing the enduring gems “Somebody’s Baby” and “Doctor My Eyes.”

Of course, Browne also took time to showcase his most recent material, especially politically and environmentally conscious songs from his 2021 album “Downhill from Everywhere,” including the title track, “The Dreamer” and “Until Justice is Real.”

But the tried-and-true memory-lane offerings not surprisingly got the most enthusiastic reaction from fans, with Taylor joining Browne for a duet on “The Pretender” and singing backing vocals for “Running on Empty” to close out the opening set.

“I’m so grateful to play live right now. It’s a gift to us,” Browne told fans, adding that he was honored to join Taylor on his U.S. tour. “He’s one of my all-time favorite songwriters. His songs have always meant so much to me.”

Clearly, the same was true for the near-capacity crowd at Van Andel Arena. Fans greeted Taylor — a teller of engaging tales — with the sort of warmth reserved for a favorite uncle at the holidays, which is not surprising, considering most of them had grown up listening to one of the kings of soft rock.

It was also clear from the opening renditions of “Country Road” and “Copperline,” and a resplendent take on “Mexico” a couple of song later, that Taylor’s all-star band was just that: a tight, well-oiled 12-piece machine complete with a horn section and five backing vocalists (including Taylor’s son, Henry).

Friday’s tour stop came just a day after news that longtime Taylor backing singer David Lasley had passed away at age 74 after a long illness. The Michigan native who grew up on a farm about 100 miles north of Grand Rapids –

Taylor acknowledged the singer near the end of the main set, noting that some of Lasley’s family members were at the show.

“We lost a really close friend last night,” said Taylor, who pointed out that Lasley had performed with the band since the mid-1970s (and played numerous Michigan tour stops over the years).“We want to remember David Lasley – a great, great singer and a great artist.”

Later, during the encore, Browne joined Taylor’s band to perform a crowd-involving version of The Eagles’ “Take It Easy,” a song Browne co-wrote with another late Michigan native, Glenn Frey.

“Sing it so Glenn can hear you,” Browne said. Added Taylor: “David, too.”

Poignant, nostalgic moments peppered the evening, from Taylor’s touching rendering of the 1970 classics “Sweet Baby James” and “Fire and Rain” to the chorally captivating “Carolina on My Mind” and gospel-tinged “Shower the People,” which also served as an uplifting tribute to Lasley.

And while on the subject of 1970, one of the evening’s bona fide highlights came during the set’s only blues number, “Steamroller Blues,” which first appeared on 1970’s “Sweet Baby James.”

Augmented by soulful trumpet and organ lines, Taylor unleashed the ditty in humorous, theatrical and rollicking fashion, earning a standing ovation midway through the show.

Through it all, artful, inventive and colorful images adorned the backdrop behind the band, adding to the songs’ storylines (even if the projections of the live performers themselves seemed strangely out-of-sync).

At the end of the night, the tightly knit circle of singers unfurled Carole King’s iconic “You’ve Got a Friend” with concertgoers joining in on every word.

It left little doubt that the timeless songs themselves helped carry the evening – channeled by a pair of charming, genial artists who still have a lot to say.


Monday, December 13

BILLBOARD.COM — David Lasley, Musician-Songwriter and Prized Backup Singer for Music Legends, Dies at 74

By Taylor Mims

David Lasley — an American artist, songwriter and longtime backup singer for a slew of legendary artists — passed away on Dec. 9 at the age of 74, Billboard has confirmed. In addition to a solo career that netted him the 1982 top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit “If I Had My Wish Tonight,” Lasley sang backup for Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin and more.

Tributes to the late singer poured in after the news of his passing, with Desmond Child, James Taylor and more expressing their condolences online and sharing his music.

Lasley co-wrote Bonnie Raitt’s “I Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again” and “Got You On My Mind.” Raitt took to social media with fond words about Lasley, stating, “I am so sorry to hear of the passing of yet another beautiful friend and bright light in our music world, golden voiced David Lasley.”

According to a 1986 Los Angeles Times interview, Lasley grew up just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he sang in his local church. Lasley, his late sister Julie and his childhood friends later formed a band called The Utopias and made four records together, which they promoted at local radio stations. After the group disbanded, Lasley went on to join the touring production of Hair! from 1972-1974.

Following his stint in the Utopias, Lasley formed a vocal group called Rosie, which released two albums on RCA records in 1976 and 1977. Years later, he lent his talents to commercials, voicing ads for Miller Beer and Seagram’s Cooler.

Lasley’s four octave vocal range made him a coveted backup singer, especially with his falsetto voice. Over the course of his career, he also worked behind James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler and Ringo Starr.

In the early 1980s, Lasley was signed to Geffen Records but bought his way out of his contract when he became dissatisfied with the label asking him to “copy other artists,” according to the Los Angeles Times interview.

Between 1981 and 2006, Lasley released eight solo albums and served as a co-writer on countless singles for Raitt, LaBelle, Arnold McCuller, Whitney Houston, Dusty Springfield, Anita Baker and more.

Lasley also appeared in 20 Feet From Stardom, the 2013 documentary about backup singers that won Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Academy Awards.In 2021, a severe illness left Lasley an amputee, according to a GoFundMe started by McCuller, his friend and collaborator of 51 years. He is survived by his brother Dean Lasley.


Thursday, December 2

GREENBAYPRESSGAZETTE.COM — James Taylor, Jackson Browne prove the perfect pairing for a warm, wonderful night at Resch Center

By Kendra Meinert

ASHWAUBENON – A Tuesday evening spent in the company of James Taylor and Jackson Browne was all comfort and joy — a warm embrace from a couple of old friends.

Like so many things treasured and cherished, it was made sweeter not just by the passage of time, but in particular, the times of the last two years.

If getting whisked away to “Carolina in My Mind” felt like a dreamy escape in 1976, imagine how good it sounds 2021. If there were ever days to be reminded that when nothin’, nothin’ is going right “You’ve Got a Friend,” maybe it’s during a pandemic. “Running on Empty”? Practically a national theme song these days.

It was Taylor’s third visit to the Resch Center, and his first since a sold-out show in 2018 when he brought along Bonnie Raitt. He talked about what it means to be back onstage after touring came to a halt in early 2020 when he introduced “That’s Why I’m Here.”

“The last verse of this song sort of, well, it’s really about you and how it feels to be back out on the road finally. We never knew whether or not this was going to happen at all a year ago,” Taylor told a crowd of mostly baby boomers who nearly filled the arena. “People have been really patient. Thanks for coming out tonight and letting us play. It means the world to us.”

Whether singing or telling stories or telling jokes about horse-drawn guitars, there’s something soothing, a calmness, about James Taylor, dressed in his plain tans and grays and a newsboy cap, on a stool with a guitar in hand. Everything outside the beam of the spotlight just melts away.

His performance of “Sweet Baby James” was as poetic as the story he told of writing the lullaby on on his way to North Carolina to see his newborn nephew for the first time.

“That song just kind of blew in the window,” he said.

And so it goes with Taylor. At 73, he makes it all look easy, from the beautiful “Country Road” to open his 17-song set to a bouncy “As Easy as Rollin’ Off a Log” from 1927 off last year’s “American Standard” album to turning up the heat and strutting across the stage on “Steamroller Blues.” His marvelous 10-piece band, which includes his son, Henry, as a vocalist, was always at the ready to shine, most notably Walt Fowler on trumpet and Lou Marini on saxophone countless times and the fiddle work of Andrea Zonn on “Copperline.”

Nearly every song got an introduction from Taylor. Some were serious, like how his friend John Belushi’s death inspired the second verse of “That’s Why I’m Here” and proved to be a wake-up call for Taylor’s own recovery. He dedicated it to anyone in the audience in recovery, and then quipped, “But not to worry, we’ve still got plenty of songs for those of us who are still (expletive) up.”

Taylor tours with some of the most gorgeous staging on the road, picturesque landscapes and places that transport audiences along with the music. A large tree anchored the backdrop, as seasons, fields and woods changed behind him, a series of teardrop pendant lights moving up and down like fall leaves for one song and dancing confetti in another.

If it takes a great singer-songwriter to tour with one, there’s no more perfect match than Taylor and Browne, both Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in their 70s. Browne’s 70-minute set was equally warm-hearted, thoughtful and laid back.

His voice sounded impeccable in the Resch. Even Browne noticed. “It does sound good in here,” he told the crowd, thanking his crew for their work during times when “everything is so much harder.”

He opened with a classic, “Somebody’s Baby,” and followed it up with what he called “a middle-old song,” 1996’s “Barricades of Heaven.” He dipped freely into music off his 15th studio album, “Downhill from Everywhere,” released in July. His history of social activism was fully on display in a poignant “The Dreamer,” about immigration, the effect of plastic on oceans in the title track and racial justice in “Until Justice Is Real.”

He too chatted often between songs. He made a point to mention he had friends in the crowd from Door County from his years playing Steel Bridge Songfest in Sturgeon Bay, an event founded by Green Bay native Pat mAcdonald. He seemed both touched and amused that someone had gifted him a care package backstage filled with cheese curds, chocolates and other local goodies.

“Very Wisconsin,” Browne said.

He sat at the piano for “Doctor My Eyes” and an achingly intimate “Late for the Sky.” He called out Taylor to join him in singing “The Pretender,” and the gracious headliner stuck around to sit in with the band on “Running on Empty.”

Browne would return the favor later in the night to come back out and sing “Take It Easy” with Taylor, getting one of the biggest receptions from a crowd that was generous with standing ovations all night.


Monday, November 15

CLTAMPA.COM — James Taylor and Jackson Browne sail through breezy Tampa set at Amalie Arena

By Gabe Echazabal

What happens when a pair of 73-year-old men walk into a hockey arena and take their places, front and center, to welcome a packed house? An audience gets the ability to revel in the rich song books each septuagenarian has to offer. And that’s exactly what occurred on Thursday night when soft-rock heavyweights James Taylor and Jackson Browne brought their package tour to Tampa’s Amalie Arena.

Based on the average age of those who filled nearly 8,300 seats for this double-bill, audience members have more than likely been buying records since these singer-songwriters made their initial musical impact many years ago. In true attestation of the timelessness of the music each performer brought to the stage, those who filled the seats enjoyed a night of familiar tunes, quips, anecdotes, and sheer entertainment from headliner Taylor and show opener Browne.

A prompt 7:30 p.m. kickoff allowed plenty of time for both singers to delve into substantial sets that highlighted their longevity in the music business. Browne’s once dark brown locks have been replaced with shades of gray and he now sports a whitish beard but, otherwise, his delivery shows no signs of age whatsoever. Launching his set with his catchy, poppy contribution to 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High film soundtrack, “Somebody’s Baby,” Browne instantly gave attendees, many still filing in at the time, a familiar nugget to get things started. Dressed in a simple denim jacket, button-up shirt and jeans, Browne resembled many of the guys who filled the seats of the arena. With the accompaniment of a full band backing him, Browne’s songs benefitted from fuller arrangements in contrast to the typical solo, acoustic performances he’s offered on his recent tours. Additionally, the two impressive backup singers that rounded out his group, Alethea Mills and Tiffany Cross, added plenty of rich, warm tones to Browne’s set. Still boasting strong pipes and recalling his smooth, earnest vocal stylings, Browne sailed through a 70-minute set that included plenty of familiar tunes and a few new selections from his most current release, 2021’s Downhill from Everywhere.

Switching between acoustic and electric guitars, Browne navigated with ease and added some spoken interludes between songs to greet and thank the audience for coming out to the show throughout his set. Most poignant was his lead-in for his 2017 single “The Dreamer”; discussing the plight of a friend of his who migrated to this country, Browne acknowledged those who come to America to start new lives in the States. The song—inspired by Dreamers, undocumented immigrants protected from potential deportation from America—finds Browne touching on political and human rights issues which both often surface throughout his songwriting. With verses sung entirely in Spanish, the song’s message of hope and opportunity was felt despite any language barrier.

On a lighter note, Browne joked about the romantic breakup that inspired him to write the gorgeous 1974 ballad “Fountain of Sorrow” while sitting at a baby grand piano to play it. His jaunty take on his very first hit single, “Doctor My Eyes,” drew raucous applause from the audience and was extended to include some tasty electric guitar work courtesy of longtime veteran musician Val McCallum. However, it was the appearance of the night’s headliner during the opening set that drew the heartiest response.

“Say good evening to James Taylor!” Browne announced as the main act entered the stage to join Browne’s sturdy band. Sporting his familiar newsboy cap, a blazer and blue jeans, Taylor took his place centerstage with his opener. Both singers then traded lines and harmonized together for “The Pretender,” one of Browne’s best-known and most beloved songs. To close his set before thanking the audience for arriving early enough to hear him play, Browne relied on his signature song, “Running on Empty”, to get the audience to its feet and to sing along with him. Still onstage for the final number, Taylor this time took residence behind Browne to add backing vocals to the familiar choruses of the song.

A short break used to overhaul the barren stage set Jackson played in front of brought a large, faux oak tree with an assortment of light bulbs hanging from it as part of the décor. Opening with a video montage of fans singing and delivering their renditions of some of his classics, Taylor soon after reappeared on stage to start his headlining set. Boasting a large band that included fiddle player and backup singer Andrea Zonn and legendary drummer Steve Gadd, Taylor dove headfirst into familiar territory with “County Road,” a single from his breakthrough 1970 album, Sweet Baby James to start his 100-minute set. While starting out sounding a bit thin and frail in the vocal department, it wouldn’t be long before Taylor would fall into his more recognizable, signature vocal tone and timbre.

In brutal honesty while discussing the perils of addiction, Taylor recalled his late friend and former “Saturday Night Live” star John Belushi and the role substance abuse played in his demise. Taking that event as a wakeup call, Taylor described that “pivot point” in his life as the catalyst for cleaning up his own act. As the hanging lights on stage dramatically changed colors and slowly bobbed, Taylor’s vocals were at full strength for this personal, poignant portion of the show.

Now joined by a total of five backing vocalists (including his 20-year-old son Henry), Taylor continued to remind audience members of his vast and fruitful catalog and of his dominance of radio airwaves throughout the 1970s. A sparkling, near-perfect version of “Mexico” soared thanks to the multi-layered harmonies his crew of vocalists laid on it.

Taylor’s wry wit and humor was evident throughout the evening, too. As audience members yelled out song requests, the singer, now perched on a stool at the foot of the stage, bent down to retrieve his jumbo-sized, handwritten setlist and held it up for all to see. “It’s coming up,” he announced, referring to the title the audience member had requested. “I’ll let you know” he continued and was met with a sea of laughter from the audience.

When mentioning his most current album, 2020’s American Standard, Taylor acknowledged that the record came out while COVID initially hit.

“It was like throwing an album down a well” he joked, referring to the effect a nationwide pandemic can have on the promotion and success of a new album. Nonetheless, he delivered an exquisite take on one of its tunes, “As Easy as Rolling Off a Log,” which has its origins as part of a 1930s Merrie Melodies cartoon. The bouncy jazz-swing tune brought a welcomed variant to the night’s mostly softer balladry and showcased Taylor’s expressive vocals brilliantly. A bonus was seeing scenes from the original cartoon reel beamed on the stage video screen as the song was played.

Breaking out his own arsenal of signature songs towards the end of his set, Taylor effortlessly poured out radio staples like “Fire and Rain,”
“Carolina in My Mind,” and his take on “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You),” a song Marvin Gaye originally recorded, which Taylor turned into a monster hit in 1975. A montage of family photos flashed on the projection screens for that one which gave it a more personal feel.

Returning the favor, opener Jackson Browne joined the festivities for Taylor’s encore and the pair again traded lines and verses for a few numbers. This time, it was “Take it Easy,” a song popularized by The Eagles and one Browne co-wrote with late Eagles singer-guitarist, Glenn Frey, that the men duetted. A corny, ham-fisted (and obviously staged) ploy to play one more song followed. “I hope that looked spontaneous!” Taylor deadpanned before delivering an emotive version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” on which Browne lent his backing vocals to round out the choruses.

To cap off the triumphant night, Taylor and his son sat, side by side, each playing a guitar, and dispatched a haunting, sparse version of “You Can Close Your Eyes,” one of the standout tracks from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. Whether intentional or not, the move fittingly proved that Taylor’s music and sound is truly timeless and that a great song can transcend time and generational gaps brilliantly, a theory every one of his longtime fans would willingly agree.


Wednesday, October 27

TALENTRECAP.COM — Ranking the Best Mega Mentors in the History of ‘The Voice’

By Corey Cesare

From Taylor Swift to Ed Sheeran, we’ve seen a ton of different mega mentors since The Voice began in 2011. Every year, the show is able to bring in bigger and better names as the mega mentor, so let’s reminisce on who has been our favorites now that Sheeran joined The Voice family.

7. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
In Season 11, The Voice was able to get Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as their mega mentors. Many people were excited for this duo, but their inclusion had me a bit worried. They are well known country artists, so I was worried they wouldn’t be able to connect with every singer.

McGraw and Hill surprised me with how well they did on this show. They broke down each song and were able to teach singers how to really connect with an audience, which is extremely important in a competition like this.

6. Kelly Clarkson
Before Clarkson was a coach on The Voice, she was originally season 13’s mega mentor. I think it goes without saying that she was great on the show considering she’s a coach now. She brought charm and humor to the show mostly. But she also gave great insight from someone who has won a talent show in the past.

5. Usher
This original The Voice coach came back and mentored each contestant in season 19. Just like in the seasons he coached, he provided positivity and always knew what his mentees needed to hear. He was famous at a young age, so he was really able to connect with singers of all ages on the show.

4. Mariah Carey
Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson were arguably more excited than some of the singers for season 15’s mega mentor. As soon as Carey was announced as the mega mentor, everyone fan-girled over her. Carey was able to share her experiences from her lengthy career with the singers which was great at the time. Clarkson and Hudson thought she was the best mega mentor to date, which I agreed with during the season, but there have been even larger names since.

3. Snoop Dogg
This mega mentor was probably the biggest surprise the series had even seen. Snoop Dogg was definitely the dark horse out of all of these mentors. Many people expected him not to relate to each singer, since he’s a rapper, but he surprisingly did.

He was able to really show off all he knew about music and let me just say, I was impressed. His knowledge on The Voice felt like he was a mix of Usher and John Legend. I thought he gave each singer great advice and really was one of the best parts of season 20.

2. Taylor Swift
This superstar was the mega mentor in both seasons 7 and 17 of The Voice. She’s known for beginning her career at 14 and skyrocketing into fame from there so she was the perfect mega mentor for the season. From her two seasons I felt like I always saw great improvements with the singers. I think her charm mixed with her music experience is what made her a great mentor.

1. James Taylor
This five time Grammy winner mentored the singers on The Voice in season 18. This is the biggest name The Voice has ever gotten as the mega mentor and he did amazing on the show. Throughout his time on the show we practically saw every coach and singer bowing down to him. James Taylor is a music legend so he immediately takes the cake as the best mega mentor in the history of The Voice. He was able to teach both the singers and coaches about music based off of his lengthy, iconic career.


Thursday, October 14

NOLA.COM — James Taylor to donate portion of New Orleans concert proceeds to Second Harvest Food Bank

By Keith Spera

James Taylor and Jackson Browne plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from their New Orleans concert this weekend to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.

Second Harvest, which helps feed south Louisiana residents in need year-round, has been heavily involved in distributing food and other supplies to those affected by Hurricane Ida.

“This is such a generous gift of love, and means even more with music being such an integral part of the soul of South Louisiana,” Second Harvest President and CEO Natalie Jayroe said in a statement. “We are honored that these two world-renowned artists and their fans are transforming the joy of a live performance into something even larger for our community.”

After a six week break, Taylor and Browne, his “special guest,” open the second leg of their 2021 tour Saturday at the Smoothie King Center.

The show was initially scheduled for May 15, 2020. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed first to May 14, 2021, then again to this Saturday.

The Smoothie King Center will be set up in a reduced-capacity configuration. Tickets are still available via Ticketmaster and start at $59 plus service charges.