Featured Artist – June 7, 2017
Article written by William Ellis
There is an iconic shot of Jesse Taylor (in his J T and the Kentucky Brushfire video, “Waste of Time”), standing before his Kentucky Brushfire bandmates – drummer Sherri Magee and “the legendary” bassist Jeff Bender – not positioned, necessarily (or rather, intentionally) in order of importance but just poetically scattered across a fenced-in, circular veranda with the Lexington skyline in the background. And yet, whether intentional or not, this Balcony TV video is right on and poetically just with its visually coincidental visceral depiction of the band members’ importance. Though Jesse Taylor—just standing there quite noticeably in his non-pretentious, sock-capped manner–would never advocate this posterior aspect that takes away from the moment at hand, that is, from the actual performance of the (his) song. The band members physical order of appearance is, rather, in essence, all part of the actual elevated truth which goes along with this elevated video. Afterall, it is his song, the author of “well over a thousand songs’” rock standard “Waste of Time,” that is being presented. And Jesse, afterall, should exist as the front-man for his band J T and the Kentucky Brushfire because — not only does his designated-being stand for the beginning of the band’s abbreviated namesake, but he is its singer / songwriter, its creative originator. But such things are immaterial and intangible to the actual concerns of the band’s front-man, Jesse Taylor. Because Jesse Taylor is not in this for the attention, or the glitz, or the glamor. He is in it because writing songs and producing songs is in the very air that he breathes – and in the very blood that pumps through his heart. His blue collar stage casualness is thus no act, it is, rather, amongst the actual non-pretentious manners of his being. Because in losing “track” of the myriad moments and years which have combined and accrued into transforming Taylor from a “12 year old” songwriter into the band’s actual front-man, that is, in losing “track” of the amount of songs he’s written and performed, in losing track of the amount of time he’s spent working behind the scenes for himself and others in technical studio toil, Jesse has accomplished the trick of losing himself to find himself. And this is a trick, or feat (or Zen), of much honor and substance with quite an upside.
Upon meeting Jesse Taylor one gets the impression of an old, tried and true road warrior – akin to Ulysses having passed by the Cyclops, Circe’s pig sty, and the Sirens to finally return upon the craggy shores of Ithaca with a two day old beard, his guitar, and a three day hangover. Yet with a day of rest, or even without a day of rest, he possesses – within his artistic quiver and acumen – the wherewithal to gather himself, slay all intending musical suitors, and imbibe the island population with his regal guitar strumming; with the sage dimensions of his musical wizardry; with humor; and, beyond that, (especially) with a special humility glowing from his eyes which is learned (or, rather, earned) from years of sacrifice and dedication towards his chosen field. In fact, Jesse Taylor has been all over the place, been to Muscle Shoals (“when the Stones were there, they were just hanging out: that’s what everyone does in Muscle Shoals, they hang out – it’s incredibly laid back” Taylor said); been to F L A; been to god-knows-where. One can sense that about him when he walks into a room. And one can sense it within his lyrics: “As a child I was / ate up with pain / liquor and guitar brought / on hard, hard rain / the wet slick roads with / miles of cocaine / left me loveless / cheated, all alone / once again. [“Northern Virginia Sky”]. And you can know that about him once you’ve carefully listened to his lyrics or spoken with him about his musical travails and adventures. Not only is he an artistic warrior– tried and true – he’s a survivor: “Well things right now don’t look easy / They never work out the way we think / Life has been no bed of roses / I can’t count happiness on one hand” [“To whom”]. That said, let’s just further state that life as an artist is, at the very least, difficult — no – “bed of roses.” It is a struggle for psychic head room to breathe, to endure, to turn once more into the foreboding winds of struggle and strife. It is a struggle for enough bread, and especially for enough psychic fuel and stamina to continue on. And Jesse Taylor has most definitely displayed the proper skills and courage throughout the years (i.e. the right stuff) to keep-on-keeping-on and even to break on through to the other side of stardom. His heavy guitar strumming somewhat dominates the room, as he comes on with the energy of a giant, with his raspy, pain-leaden voice and his incisive, take-no-prisoner lyrics–he’s s quite a charismatic wonder.
Of course, asides from the pride that is natural and eventually inevitable to every performing, practicing artist, Jesse doesn’t see it that way. Quite the opposite. No, Jesse Taylor is, in fact, one of those singer / songwriters who concentrate a portion of their effort towards the recording of others’ music. Originally with his father, Doc, and then, just by himself, Jesse Taylor used to own a music store on the south side of Lexington (Chuck’s Music). Jesse and his father reopened the store in 2010 on Southland Drive from a previous stint by a prior owner (Charlie Morehead) at a separate location. Jesse, in fact, used to formerly frequent the place (when it was owned by Morehead) for music supplies when he was off the road from touring. Chuck’s Music was typically known (when Jesse and Doc owned it and before) as a place for local musicians and musical technicians to just hang out and talk shop. In fact, Jesse Taylor describes his former store’s ambience as a “barbershop for musicians.” (Note that The Lexington Herald Leader once described the store during the Taylor’s stewardship as a “bar without booze.”) Jesse and his father initially restarted their “music hub on the south” as a consignment shop and had the good fortune to almost immediately be consigned about 200 guitars from the family of a guitar collector who had passed away. Later the shop sold not only consigned, but also new, used, and vintage instruments such as the “banjitar” –you guessed it, half banjo, half guitar – or how about a dulcimer “shaped like the state of Kentucky” as, typical of Jesse Taylor’s musical comradery and empathy with and for other musicians and craftsmen, practically “anything” that “anyone” had “done or accomplished,” Jesse would “display” in his shop. Jesse spent a significant amount of time “recording” there for others, as well. Like the Sound of Lexington, his store featured a full recording studio upstairs, and as far as the recording studio went, Jesse says, “his” personal “place was behind the computer mixing somebody’s” (or perhaps his own) “music.” Jesse has been “doing” that, he says, “since” he “was a kid.” Yes, though the stage has so often been where he feels most at home, Jesse Taylor, nonetheless, has spent “a lot of time” doing “studio work.” Between touring on the road, the owning of his own store, and just performing around Lexington (not to mention the years’ compiling “since” he “was a kid”), Jesse has also logged his more-than-10.000 hours in the musical field, a fact that should not only satisfy Malcom Gladwell but anyone who might assume his musical ability comes as a dalliance or a non-chalant acquisition via merely talent. No Jesse Taylor has earned his status as a self-made merchant of music. And you can hear this in the crackling dynamism of his voice, in his well-worn guitar playing; and see it in his eyes’ avid imagination and adroit wisdom.
Originally from foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia, Jesse Taylor moved with his parents to Lexington in 1987. As a developing young musician, he drew much of his inspiration from the ethos of West Virginia; as, he drew his “work ethic” for existing as a singer / songwriting musician from his father, Doc, as well as from his grandfather. He has since played with various bands including Jolliet Hollow – named for his hometown in West Virginia and sometimes featuring Linda Jean Stokley and S. Montana Hobbs from The Local Honeys (see prior Sound of Lexington “Band of the Week”). He has also been the enduring songwriting lead guitarist and vocalist for J T and the Kentucky Brushfire (regularly featuring Sheri Magee – drums / vocals and Chris Hall – bass / vocals). And he has appeared, of course, at times, as his self . He has toured playing on the road for “five solid years” and, as stated previously, has more than earned his musical stripes. As a singer / songwriter, he focuses much of his lyrical pathos on songs of unrequited love, and, as he promotes on Facebook, toward songs about “broken homes,” “personal battles with addiction,” and “strength of recovery.” He has “chart[ed] in CMJ,” as well as “played live for FOX Sports during the half-time of a football game.” But those credits pale in comparison to his multifaceted abilities as a practicing singer / songwriter and performing artist. His lyrics are soulful, well-timed, and succinctly orchestrated, and, as a listener, one can clearly make out the life-experience behind his songs as well as the influence of copious song-writing masters. As a song writer, he sketches quite an engaging storyline and his dry-desert style of vocalizing his well-honed lyrics easily commands one’s respect and attention. Enjoy his visit here at The Sound of Lexington and be sure to catch him out and around Lexington either appearing by himself or as the songwriting lead guitarist and singer for J T and the Kentucky Brushfire.
Make sure and check out the 2 songs he played for us on Barefoot KY TV on the link below as well as the interview with Kentucky comedic actor Billy Crank! Then scroll down more for lots of pics!