Album Review: Willy Tea Taylor’s ‘The Great Western Hangover’
UPDATED: November 2, 2023
UPDATED: November 2, 2023

Album Release: October 27, 2023

Label: Blackwing Music

Willy Tea Taylor gets indulgent in The Great Western Hangover

Willy Tea Taylor has been around for well over a decade now, spreading his poetic gospel and 4-string tenor guitars in beautiful musical alchemy. Taylor is a true heartworn hero of the genre. His lyrical abilities are second to none, cultivating a cult following, and making him one of the generation’s best.

Taylor’s music has traditionally gravitated toward the singer/songwriter and bluegrass realms. He employs a lyric-forward style, often discussing weighty and profound themes, with the melodies and music only serving as complements to the narrative. This approach, like so many of his peers, seems to struggle to capture the wide audience it so readily deserves.

The Great Western Hangover represents a new musical direction for Taylor. In collaboration with his talented musician friends, “The Fellership,” he embraces a more music and melody-focused approach, resulting in an Alt-Country, Southern Rock mash-up. However, Taylor’s distinctive storytelling remains the driving force. With “The Fellership” on board, providing a rich sonic backdrop, listeners are compelled to follow Captain Willy’s every word.

Each of the 10 tracks on this 39-minute record is exceptional. Willy Tea Taylor showcases his ability as a salesman. There’s an earned honesty in his voice, you know he’s not bullshitting. You know this man has lived it. The opening track, Knights Ferry, along with others like Wild Buckskin, hit you hard with over driven electric guitars and reckless blues riffs. The Great Western Hangover is a “Dylan goes electric” situation, making it clear, we have a new Willy Tea Taylor.

Even though the album is solid through and through, there are multiple standouts.  National Treasure  is a fantastic honky-tonk feel good tune that will have you dancing to its infectious hook.  69 Malibu is truly something special and unexpected. Taylor exercises his indie rocker chops on a song fit for a 1980s rock anthem. I can invision a retro music video of the 69 Malibu racing down the interstate.

Devils Taxidermy details the portrait of drug abuse. The tragedy is beautifully and brilliantly written. I vividly recall learning the ropes with so many brilliant writers and “rockers” who met this very same fate nearly word for word. You can tell Taylor has been in the trenches with these unfortunate dregs, showcasing his empathy while unloading the dark details.

Dangerous Beautiful is another remarkably written song. It took me several listens to fully understand its meaning. In the song, Taylor explores his inner egos and personas, particularly the philosopher and the drunk. He discusses how the different aspects are both essential to his creativity and detrimental to his well-being. The narrative details his battle with inner peace as he struggles to find the proper balance within himself. With backup vocals from Anna Tivel, this song is a contemporary masterpiece.

The remaining songs have a more familiar Willy Tea Taylor feel. While I’m not sure of the specific references, their interpretations are open-ended, making them feel highly personal.

  • Bakersfield seems to be an ode to a flawed father, perhaps Taylor’s own or someone else’s, who chose wild nights and parties in Bakersfield over their family.
  • Fightin’ Man, another RnR favorite, is about extending forgiveness to a hardened, cold individual, recognizing that their harsh life experiences have shaped them.
  • Champagne On Ice Seems to be a love-ish type song, about always finding a good time despite the surroundings.
  • The Nurse reads like a love letter, describing the kindness and care of nurses, or perhaps a very specific individual, unless I’ve entirely missed a metaphor.

Final Thoughts

The Great Western Hangover is easily a top 10 for 2023

I’ve been a fanboy of singer/songwriter music my entire life, and over the years I’ve become a bit skeptical about change. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t always work, and more often than not, it doesn’t. Then again, sometimes change is just what the doctor ordered, but I’m just too damn selfish to accept it. I’ve been heartbroken ever since Lucero traded their emo country music for a more up-beat Memphis swing. With that said, that rebranding has brought them more success than their “tear in your beer” music ever did.

My point is, I hope this is Willy’s moment. His dues have long been paid yet he still remains criminally underrated. Taylor is one of our generations greatest storytellers, and with this new “Fellership” backed band, the outcome is phenonemal and perfectly complements his lyrics. I hope this album helps him reach the larger audience he so desperately deserves.

Favorite Tracks: 69 Malibu, Devils Taxidermy, Fightin’ Man, Dangerous Beautiful

 

RootsnRevelry Grade:                           

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