Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~~ New Found Freedom

Taylor Hicks spread his wings and flew…

It was a musical journey from a prophecy made when he was 18 years old in 1994 to the new found freedom of success and stardom in 2009.

It was Taylor Hicks live in concert at WorkPlay in Birmingham last Friday and Saturday nights!

On Friday night, after a funky dancing entry, he said hello to the hometown crowd with visitors from all over the country and as far away as England. Then Taylor admitted that he was speechless.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s always good to be home.”

Words were not coming easily. So he said he would just sing.

He took us back to the beginning when about half way through the concert, Taylor introduced renowned blues guitarist, Billy Earl McClelland, and the two “got down” –way down—with blues that you will never hear from a recording studio. It was music that could only happen live on stage charged with electrifying energy from a frenzied crowd.

The music pounded on your chest. It was musicians and people oblivious to all else but the music and the moment!

Taylor Hicks was in his element with the musician who perhaps started it all.

In a hat and with a broad smile, Mr. McClelland told the story that when Taylor was 18 years old, Mr. Hicks brought Taylor to him and asked him if Taylor was good enough to “make it.” Mr. McClelland said that he replied, “Well, I hate to tell you this, but, yes he is!” Taylor appeared speechless again.

At that young age, Taylor hired McClelland to teach him the ropes and he told Taylor to just “be yourself.”

Just “being yourself” got him to Birmingham last week starring as Teen Angel in the Broadway Across America production of “Grease” and to sold out concerts at WorkPlay, where he had performed as a struggling young musician.

It must have been an emotional two nights for Taylor as he surrounded himself with those who have been helped shape his path. Ona Watson, musician and popular owner of Ona’s, where Taylor has appeared throughout the years, shared the stage on Saturday night for a bluesy duet of “Woman’s Got To Have It.” Band members, Brian Less, and Jeff Lopez were part of the Taylor Hicks Band.

It was a 15-year journey from the prophetic words of Billy Earl McClelland to WorkPlay, 2009, on Saturday night when Taylor and the UAB Gospel Choir raised spirits and the roof with the gospel sounds of “New Found Freedom,” from Taylor’s latest album, The Distance.

“When I walk
I walk with confidence
I hold my head up high
When I talk
I’ve got a positive sense
Of who I am inside.

New found freedom
Let the light be my life
New found freedom
I’m gonna spread my wings and fly.”

A special commemorative black t-shirt marked the occasion in Birmingham with dates and “Grease’s” Teen Angel wings on the back.

The wings say it all. Taylor has spread his wings.

Billy Earl McClelland was right.

Taylor Hicks has “made it.”

And two nights at WorkPlay told us that Taylor Hicks can outdo Taylor Hicks.

I think we haven’t seen anything yet.

Media from WorkPlay is available on our board in a special forum, “Live From Birmingham.”

~More “Birmingham Blogs” will try to capture the magic of Taylor at home and all of the incredible Birmingham experience.

Photo credit: RajRae, via twitter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~~ Roads home...

Taylor Hicks goes home to Birmingham this week!

In 2007, as I prepared to fly to Birmingham for Taylor’s Solo Tour, I wrote about returning to the South:

“I’ve never been to Birmingham. When I step off a plane there on March 5, I will be coming home.

“Growing up in the South in the 40s and 50s was as idyllic as Opie in Mayberry. We lived in beautiful white farm houses, and my brothers and I played in the woods. We didn’t own the house or the farm; my father was a tenant farmer.

“The future then was in the cities and, like many Southerners, we moved away. I was eight years old when we left the South with everything we had in an old Chevy. My long journey began.

“Our family never lived in the South again. Roads took me to the gray, frigid winters of Michigan, sunny beaches and Hollywood hills of California, and the scorching deserts of the Southwest.

“I returned to the South only twice since leaving all those years ago, once for my father’s funeral in the white country church I attended every Sunday as a child, then again for my mother’s funeral in the same small church a few miles from the Ohio River.

“I have always known that I must see Taylor in the South. I know now that even though I left the South, the essence of the South is still in my heart. For me, Taylor personifies that unchanging character of a world I knew as a child--a quieter, slower time and place where hearts could dream, and a boy could dance and sing in his grandmother’s kitchen.

“It has been said, ‘Home is where the heart is.’ When I step off that plane in Birmingham, I will close the circle started when I was eight. I will be coming home.”

For me, going to Birmingham felt like reclaiming that connection with the South that I had never really lost. Growing up there was a magical time and place that will always be in my heart.

A lot has happened since I first flew in over Birmingham over two years ago with my face pressed to the window looking at football fields thinking I might see one that said “Hoover.”

Taylor has a new stage, a new album, a new genre, and many new fans. He still commands an audience. He still has fans flying across the country to see him.

I’m going back to Birmingham…

And I will probably, once again, press my face against the window and look for anything that says, “Hoover.”

Make the sweet tea and fried green tomatoes…

Thanks, Taylor, for bringing me back to my roots.

See you in Birmingham!

“Birmingham,” was first published in Taylor’s fan e’zine, The Soul Connection, February, 2007.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~ Birmingham week!

Taylor Hicks has been to Asia. He’s been to Broadway, to Canada and California, and to hundreds of places in between.

This week he goes home to Birmingham.

At age 15, Taylor stepped onto the stage to entertain at Corey’s Sports Bar, a biker’s joint in downtown Birmingham. There were only a few more than his age in the audience. Taylor’s first “gig” was almost 20 years ago!

The next ten years took him all over the South—the Chitlin’ Circuit—bars, roadhouses and clubs from Nashville to the Gulf Coast. He said in his autobiography, “Heart Full of Soul,” that he could always count on coming home to Birmingham for a few gigs—City Stages, WorkPlay, Marty’s, Open Door.

In May, 2006, Taylor came home as a finalist in the biggest show on the planet, American Idol. He received a huge welcome—a parade and a meeting with Governor Riley who declared a “Taylor Hicks Day.”

A few months later, he returned to Birmingham as Season Five American Idol. In the famous purple jacket with a rock star entrance and Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock, he entertained the hometown crowd on the American Idol Tour.

Taylor was home again in March, 2007, on his own beautiful tour bus with full road band and entourage in tow. He performed at the historic Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham as fans came from all over the country to see Taylor in his hometown.

This week Taylor is back in Birmingham on yet another stage and another rung on the American Dream ladder. He stars as Teen Angel in the Broadway Across America production of “Grease.” He also entertains in his own concerts at WorkPlay with music from his new album, The Distance, out on his own label, Modern Whomp Records.

It’s Birmingham Week again!

September 22 ~ 27 “Grease” at BJCC starring Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel. Opening Night Cast Party at Rogue’s Tavern benefits Black Warrior Riverkeepers.

September 25 ~ WorkPlay concert SOLD OUT with Buffalo Black opening. Taylor appears after “Grease”

September 26 ~ WorkPlay concert with Bonnie Bishop opening. Taylor appears after “Grease.” Tickets are going fast!

Join Taylor and fans for the Birmingham experience!

It’s all special in B’ham!

Ticket for WorkPlay Saturday night:


Photos by san ~ Alabama Theatre marqee and Taylor in Atlanta, March, 2007. (No pictures were allowed inside the Alabama Theatre.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taylor Hicks ~~ "Maybe You Should"

What’s not to like about “Maybe You Should.” It is the pure, rich voice of Taylor Hicks singing a powerful song from the heart.

The heart rending lyrics of “Maybe You Should” have the feel of resignation. When all the words have been spoken and silence is broken only by tears, there is nothing left. Painful words recall the way love once was. Yet, in spite of the resolve and promises, all that remains is to give in to the inevitable.

“If you can leave here tonight,
Baby, maybe you should.”

We hold on to love, fight for it, live for it. Sometimes, we finally give up on it. “Maybe You Should” is a last acquiescence, a death knell in “this room” now filled only with memories.

The acoustic simplicity of “Maybe You Should” leaves a blank canvass for the emotional lyrics and rich vocals. Taylor’s simple delivery is straightforward, a sigh of resignation, even as plaintive words make a last attempt to rekindle those “tender years.”

“Baby, I just keep on seeing all that moonlight shining down
The way our love could light up this little Alabama town.
I keep holding on to hope still finding reasons to believe...”

If there is a trace of underlying anger it is in realizing “there’s a lot that I misunderstood” –an anguished moment when neither words, nor music, can change life.

“If you can tear down everything we built,
Deny everything we felt,
I guess there’s a lot that I misunderstood.
If you can leave here tonight,
Baby, maybe you should."

An austere, but rich piano track moves hand in hand with expressive lyrics. Bass, guitar, drums, organ and pedal steel are so finely interwoven that they are almost indistinguishable. Their blending is such a smooth musical backdrop that the mood of “this room” is all we hear.

Vocals fade at the end like someone walking out of the room. A final “maybe you should” is a whisper in an empty room sung only for the singer. Like the door closing or the final curtain falling and the lights coming up, the last musical notes take us to another inevitable—life goes on.

“Maybe You Should” is a hauntingly beautiful, bittersweet song that finds a place in each of us where love did not last forever. It plays in that deep, hidden spot in our hearts that we cover and deny that the pain is still there. But in remembering lost love, we also remember the bright spots when love could “light up this little Alabama town.”

And so for that, we go on gambling, leaning on love, and, sometimes, walking away.

Stunning lyrics are the fire in this song. They contrive to place us in the past, the present and the probable future. Words and phrasing are creatively unpredictable—not the usual “ losing you” lyrics. They are matched by beautiful melodies that carry us through a story that comes together for the kind of musical experience that we will listen to for a lifetime.

Smokey Robinson told Taylor that the songs you record, you have to live with for a long time.

“Maybe You Should” is a song that Taylor Hicks can live with for a long time!

And so can I.

Maybe You Should,” written by Taylor Hicks/Gary Nicholson/Michael Reid is from the album, The Distance, by Taylor Hicks on Modern Whomp Records.

Photo courtesy of RagsQueen, The Magic Bag, 6.22.09

Maybe You Should” video capture by RagsQueen at Smith’s Olde Bar, Atlanta, 8.16.09

Listen to an MP3 sample of “Maybe You Should” from The Distance at TTHC Discography:

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Nineteen" ~~ We will always remember.

9/11 is one of those days that we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the “whole world turned around.” That day changed so many lives forever; it changed the world forever.

The tragic losses for the families of the many victims of 9/11 are shared in the hearts and memories of people around the world.

We would like to share a new music video, “Nineteen” by KarinP and Allyn depicting the realization that, in Karin’s words, “our young people and their families are sacrificing so much while they protect us.”

“Nineteen,” recorded by Taylor Hicks, tells an emotional story that remembers the brave men and women—many of them young—who serve in our Armed Forces. Our “American heroes.”

The members of our military and the supporting NATO forces have served their countries with honor over the past eight years despite the hardships they and their families have faced.

Thanks to Karin and Allyn for creating this emotional video and to our friends in Canada for their brave act of kindness when Canadian airports became safe havens for our planes on that morning as the world struggled to know what was happening.

Karin is from Canada and Allyn is from the United States…

We give our deepest thanks to the courageous men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces and to their brave families who sacrifice more than we can know.

And our heartfelt thanks to the First Responders on that day, and every day, who risk everything to save and protect others.

For everyone whose world changed forever on 9/11…

We will always remember.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Soul Connection ~~ three and terrific!

Taylor Hicks has the best fan e’zine in all of fandom!

Congratulations to The Soul Connection for three years of publishing the best fan e’zine on the net… or anywhere!

I am old fashioned, so for three years I have printed out The Soul Connection in color and turned real pages as I read cover to cover. Every printed issue is in a folder. They are a touchable reminder of three years of music, concerts, excitement, and changes. They are a gift of memories from TSC that I treasure and look forward to adding to every month.

Although every issue of TSC is a highly professional edition, I think that its most endearing quality is not on its pages. The neatest thing about TSC is the group of people who produce it. I don’t think they will mind if I call them “fan girls” because I mean that in the best sense of the word. They have been in the concert lines from the East Coast to the West Coast to the Gulf Coast. They are as excited as anyone I have ever met to see Taylor Hicks in concert. It has been my privilege and joy to be in some of those lines with them.

It is that spirit that makes TSC more than a highly professional publication. That makes it a vibrant celebration among fans sparked and led by Connie and her editors.

Thank you, Soul Connection, for being fans first and for sharing your enthusiasm and talents with us. We will be there for another three years—reading The Soul Connection and joining you in the concert lines.

The journey goes on. Taylor and The Soul Connection make it fun and memorable.

We owe you…

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Taylor Hicks meets the "toughest crowd" in Texas

I doubt that Taylor Hicks checked the list of co-stars as he appeared on Good Day Dallas on Fox 4 last week.

I doubt that he expected to meet his “toughest crowd” in a Dallas TV studio when he appeared on the same stage as Burt, the basset hound.

Burt, a paunchy, mostly white basset hound mix, stars in a CPR program in Dallas and appeared in a segment on Good Day Dallas when Taylor was there to promote “Grease” and sing “Seven Mile Breakdown.”

As the show wrapped up, the laid back Burt lounged on the floor, and Taylor accepted the challenge to entertain the relaxed pooch. Neither harp, poking, nor “Hound Dog” serenade in true Elvis style could rouse Burt, the perfect example of the resting heartbeat.

Taylor joked, “What a tough crowd!”

Nothing keeps us grounded like our animals. They don’t care that we are Season Five American Idol Winner, a platinum certified recording artist, or Teen Angel starring in “Grease.” None of that impressed Burt who could not be won over.

What if we could accept and know people without their titles?

Before the titles, who was Taylor Hicks? He was a singer, songwriter and entertainer. I think he would be happy to be accepted just that way. In Dallas, even that didn’t make it with Burt!

Taylor performed a rousing “Seven Mile Breakdown” with harp and a stunning black guitar.

It is assumed that Burt slept through the performance.

I don’t know why we love the unexpected so much. Perhaps it is because life sometimes becomes predictable. Animals remind us that life is not and that they are who they are, no matter what.

And then there was also the goat!

Taylor took the bull by the horns (or was that a different day?) and tweeted a good-natured review of the events shortly after the appearance:

“Goat Milker, Dog Whisperer, and Cattle Driver..John Henry move over...”

It was just a day in the life of the singer, songwriter, goat milker, dog whisperer…

It made us smile…and appreciate the unexpected!

(Photos courtesy of Good Day Dallas FOX4. Thanks for the smiles!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Victories...and the TOP TEN!

TOP TEN in the twittering world!

Taylor Hicks finished No. TEN in the Ultimate Mr. Twitterer World! The Soul Patrol voted like they do so well and brought home the very excellent showing in this WORLDWIDE contest.

Thanks to everyone who showed the Taylor love.

In the heart contest, Taylor way outdistanced the competition with more tweeterlove hearts than anyone in the contest. Fans gave him 424!

Congratulations, Taylor! You ARE loved!