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Jackson Taylor - Dark Days

by Keith Howerton

Jackson Taylor - Dark Days(January 2008) There is a disturbing and growing trend in the wonderful world of Texas music. It is a trend that I call the “Be Like Them Syndrome.” There are dozens of bands and artist trying to be the next Randy Rogers, the next Cross Canadian Ragweed, the next Kevin Fowler, the next whoever seems to be drawing the large numbers of kids in the six-month or so window the band or artist seems to be focused on. It starts with trying to open for these larger more successful bands and then pontificating on websites and myspace about how they opened for “whichever hot band.” It is an understandable strategy to build a fan base and for some bands it works ... for a period of time. The real problem is that it this process leads to a great deal of “Texas music pop crap” being recorded onto CDs and peddled off as great Texas music. A lot of Texas music -- and over half of what is on the charts -- is not very good, to be perfectly honest.

It is for this reason that getting a CD like Jackson Taylor’s Dark Days is a shot in the arm and a motivator for a cynical music critic like me.

First, the record is real and is like nothing else currently being played in Texas. Second, it is an unashamed “outlaw” record with songs written for guys, not written for the sole purpose of drawing the cowboy boot and skirt wearing young ladies to the shows to swoon over the front man. Dark Days is what Texas country music should always be. It is a look into the singer/songwriter’s soul with a peek at his hardship and reality.

Taylor penned 10 of the 11 tracks on the CD, and the 11th is a great cover of the Waylon made famous and Billy Joe authored classic “Honky Tonk Heros.” If you don’t know who Waylon and Billy Joe are, stop reading this review and kill yourself. Just kidding, but please look them up on the web. Another track on the CD Jackson co-wrote with fellow “Outlaw” Jarrod Birmingham.

Dark Days is at the top of my list for releases of 2007 and could be the record of the year in 2008. It is no doubt a solid country record with driving rock beats, but the songs are simply excellent. I like songwriters to venture outside of the standard “I love you and I love beer” themes. Taylor takes the listener of Dark Days into some dark places like the bottomless hell of heroin addition in “Goodbye Morphine” and into the darkness of revenge justice over a less than righteous woman in “Shallow Grave.” Both songs are edgy and completely politically incorrect, and they are both fantastic. Other notable tracks on the record are “Outlaws Ain’t Wanted Anymore,” “Miles,” “Dark Days", and “Outlaw Women.” The first single released to radio, “Lonely,” is not one of the stronger tracks on the record and the song hit the top 10 on the charts. That's a good sign for the future of the record as Jackson continues to tour and promote the project well into 2008.

Taylor produced the record himself and the production quality and technical aspects of the project are perfect. It is far above the sometimes-slacking standard of many Texas-based records. The sound of Dark Days is clear and clean and it brings the sound right through the ears straight into the brain. It is a real treat in sound quality.

When many of the current group of pop Texas music bands has long since hung up the instruments for jobs selling insurance or something else, Jackson Taylor will be still writing songs and making records. If Dark Days is an indication, writing and recording great songs is in his blood, and something that strong can’t be beaten back by the realities of the music business, and in my view that is a good thing. For this music fan Jackson Taylor is the real deal and Dark Days is a refreshing welcome to a Texas music scene that sometimes seems to be trading “Outlaw” country for a “Nashville Light” style of pop country. Jackson is breaking that trend and he will be rewarded for it. Real songs and real  singer/songwriters stand the test of time and 2008 is bound to be a huge year for Jackson Taylor.

Dark Days by Jackson Taylor is a must have for any real country music fan!!!

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