Lloyd Taylor-Clark ‘s new album Swan Songs is the perfect album for a quiet Sunday morning with the smell of coffee and toast still hanging in the air. The combination of English folk roots and Americana is apposite, as Taylor-Clark was born in the rural East Midlands then spent some time in London before relocating to Oregon in 2020. He says that knowing he was going to move so far from England added a more idyllic filter to his impressions of his home country and that “Most of the songs that made the cut for the album are about London and England. I kind of put these songs together as if creating a photo album to look back on. I wanted to give my thoughts and memories a home to live in.”.
The title song opens the album, and it’s a silver bell of a song. It’s delicate and beautiful, almost heartbreakingly short but the filigree guitar playing, and two-part harmony give you the sense that you have stepped through a door into a more magical world. And Swan Songs does cast a spell by giving the feeling of an intimate front room concert, and on songs like ‘London Water’, ‘My Sides’ you can hear the rooms it was recorded in as well as the incidental noises of noises off. ‘My Sides’ also has delicate matinee cinema piano playing and flute sounds to accompany the gentle cadence of Taylor-Clark’s voice. The push and pull of English Countryside and American landscape creates some marvellous combinations of sounds with slide guitar featuring on many tracks such as the relaxed samba of ‘Jawbone’, which ends with the Albert Lee-twang of the guitar solo, or ‘A Common Phrase’, which pitches subtle Latin percussion against riverside folk. The standout track on the album for me is ‘Some Sunny Day’ which was previously released as a single and I wrote at the time that it’s “a languid song that has a lighter than air buoyancy to it and if it wasn’t for the drums keeping it rooted then if might float off into the ether”.
Many of the songs on the album are rooted in the folk of artists like Bert Jansch but lean into American troubadours like Tim Buckley. Also, the glorious harmonies have the can’t-slide-a-cigarette-paper-between-them closeness of Simon and Garfunkel or Kings of Convenience. The genres of folk and Americana are crowded waters so if you decide to go for a swim, it helps if you have the chemistry/alchemy to separate you from other artists and Taylor-Clark has this by the acre. It is idyllic enough to soothe and calm the listener but the use of percussion and lashings of slide guitar in the song arrangements is inspired. The album retains a homemade warmth but has the polish of an empathic producer, in this case Taylor-Clarks’ friend Nathan Ridley at Hermitage Works Studio, who “brought out the vibrancy of those imperfections“.
Swan Songs is aglow with magic hour sunshine and cool breezes that could be drifting off the Thames or Columbia rivers, and though the album’s title is usually a metaphor for a final performance or gesture I hope that this is the first of many from Lloyd Taylor-Clark.
Swan Songs is also available as a limited edition cassette tape.