A kitchen table, in an austere and no-frills setting a few feet above sea level on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, is command central for a musician named Kate Taylor whose life is rooted prodigiously in this raw and natural island place. This kitchen table is where we can see how this woman rolls in her world, which aligns with the narrative of a female Odysseus; a woman of many twists and turns. Lots of winking and nodding, head shaking and laughing go on at this table. Moreover, nods to some great songs, stories and knowledge of music production have passed over this table.
This past March at this very table is where I heard a recent musical effort and collaboration of some extraordinary musicians, who over the years have been absorbed and assimilated into Kate Taylor’s life and musical journey. At the epicenter of this effort is Kate Taylor’s keen and lifelong passion for singing and playing music. Taylor is part of a very musical family that shares decades of history and experience of the business end of music, and have also learned many creative, and stylistic musical traditions. More about this recent musical effort later.
In March 2019 I was on a yearly visit to see some Martha’s Vineyard friends. Part of my loop around the island always contains a stop at Kate’s kitchen table to drink coffee and talk about general life stuff, and have some yuks. On this trip in 2019, Kate had just returned from doing some music gigs in Nashville, and she had an upcoming show planned at the Chilmark Tavern to play with her Vineyard music pal Jemima James. Kate was very tired from the Nashville trip; however, she soldiered on to play the gig. That night was fun and the ladies played well to a full house. It was a standard-issue live performance and Kate and Jemima were in fine voice; she and Jemima James make it look easy. Nota Bene:- Covid-19 was barely a whisper in the news cycle and looking back on that night, I think of Kate, Jemima, and the audience as seeming very innocent.
I had taken a few pictures of the performers and those moments are now a testament to said innocence as we all know what happened in mid-March when our world simply ghosted on us and turned into something else. It was brand new territory to navigate and we did not have a chart to follow a new course. People had to adapt. People always must adapt to life as it is.
So, what does a gal do during a pandemic after a lifetime of music swirling around in her head and through her hands? Moreover, what does this same gal do who has layers of Yankee ingenuity baked into the hand that life has dealt her; a life involving a creative passion for art, music, and family?
Well, what this gal conjured and developed at her kitchen table—command central—was the idea to collaborate on a well-intentioned musical endeavor with her former music producer, Peter Asher. Some backstory: Peter is a very sharp and successful producer who worked with Kate’s brother James and many other notable musicians. His career is expansive. Asher also produced records for Kate before she opted out of the music business in her twenties. Taylor is a very bright woman who instinctively knew what her wants and needs were at that time, and they did not include a career in music. Subsequently, after some recording and touring she left the business and returned to Martha’s Vineyard to raise a family.
Fifty years ago Kate Taylor and Peter Asher collaborated on an album titled, “Sister Kate,” which reached placement in Billboard’s Top 100. And, this year they again collaborated on a new record titled “Why Wait!” which is a classic collection of songs. This past March I got to hear the final mixes of this album at Kate’s kitchen table, and it was not lost on me how much things had changed since I saw Kate and Jemima play at the Chilmark Tavern twelve months prior. What Taylor did during the pandemic was practice the song selections for the record, then she hopped aboard a jet—donning a mask and a face shield—and flew to Los Angeles to throw down some serious effort with some serious players to make a great record.
The musicians who worked on this project are a serious lot of renowned players. Guitarists, Danny Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel, and Albert Lee, along with bass player Leland Sklar, pianist Jeff Allen Ross, drummer Russ Kunkel, along with violinist Scarlet Rivera supplied impeccable work in backing Taylor’s noteworthy phrasing and melodic chops— Kate’s voice keeps improving. (Many of these players worked with Kate and her brother James in their earlier recording days.) Furthermore, Kate’s daughter’s Liz Witham and Aretha Taylor sang backing vocals. And, Kate’s Vineyard friends: Laurie David, Amy Irving, Judy Belushi Pisano, and Joanne Ashe—the Ukeladies—helped out on some tracks. This, is a fun record.
Hearing the final mixes at the kitchen table for the first time was a blast. Kate nails a cover of Taj Mahal’s, “He caught the Katy,” which grabbed me right from the rip. In addition to a catchy covering of, “Good Day Sunshine” by Lennon and McCartney, Kate also sings another chestnut by Tommy James and the Shondells called “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” which brought me right back to a high school dance. Taylor gives a sweet nod to her brother James while covering his song, “I Will Follow,” which has an engaging lyric, melody and slick bridge. This album, born of a lifetime love affair of music for all involved, has some very memorable moments and surprises; the songs tend to grow on you.
A favorite of mine is Kate’s nephew Isaac Taylor’s “Beams Of The Queen.” This song is a visceral homage to the sense of geography and place of Martha’s Vineyard. I get chills from the song. There is not a clunker in the bunch of this gang of great songs. Finally, we’ve all probably felt a sense of urgency since the pandemic began, and Taylor’s so aptly titled record “Why Wait!” is a reminder to us all that we need to throw down for what we love to do and not, wait. ‘Nuff said.
“Why Wait!” is available at Compass House Records, 916 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN, 37212.