Dennis Taylor - Dayspring

by David Bruggink Rating:8.5 Release Date:2015-03-26
Following a set of sublime re-releases by the legendary Robbie Basho (Visions of the Country and the more prosaically-titled, but equally beautiful, Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12), American primitive guitar label Grass-Tops Recording continues to expand its roster of players with both immense technical ability and the gift of writing memorable songs. This month sees the re-release of Dennis Taylor's Dayspring, originally self-released in 1982 but limited to only 300 copies, now available to the wider public.
 
Was it worth the 30-year wait? Fans of the lyrical playing of masters such as John Fahey, Jack Rose and James Blackshaw will certainly recognize in Taylor a kindred spirit. 'Going Nowhere Fast' moves along like a bumpy cart ride at a dizzying clip, showcasing that classic American primitive skill of seeming to play several guitars at once by pairing a complex melody on the treble strings with a restless bassline played by the thumb. 

But far from being a collection of barn burners, Dayspring is quite a varied album, sometimes allowing itself to settle into more refined, spacious places, as on 'The Journey Home,' which feels like the melancholy spirit of Belle & Sebastian soundtracking a rainy day in a northern town. 'Dawning Point,' almost classical in its restraint, but no less yearning in its melodies, sets Taylor's formalism in contrast to the wild, tangled compositions of Basho. Where Basho soars constantly with a shimmering unpredictability, Taylor's more restrained style nevertheless yields a subtle appeal all its own; his ability to cascade unexpectedly in a torrent of notes is made all the more impressive ('Reflection of the Dayspring').
 
Nor does his style limit the impact of a song like 'Heartfull', which burns quickly and irrepressibly with a transparent joy. It's on 'From the East to the West,' though, that the different strains of Taylor's playing come together most gracefully and movingly: the pulling away towards chaos; the continual leading back towards tranquility, and the emotional crescendo, all grounded in Taylor's raga-and blues-inspired fingerwork.

It's a moving conclusion to an album that should have garnered more admirers 30 years ago, but which, thankfully, now finds itself in very good company among new and old releases which continue to refine the practice of songwriting on the acoustic guitar.

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