Julian Taylor has spent his life living between two worlds, while not really being a member of either one. 50% West Indian and 25% Mohawk, he grew up as an indigenous person of colour, raised by a white step-grandmother. As a child though, none of that matters. It is only as a man that the strange ways become fully known. Taylor’s latest album, The Ridge, looks backward and forward charting one mans pathway through the world.
In talking about his own heritage, Julian makes it clear that being within two cultures at once isn’t easy. “I am an Indigenous person of colour and someone who grew up in a predominantly white environment. I never felt that I was Indigenous enough to be accepted into that culture and I never felt like I was black enough to be accepted into that culture.”
Amidst piano, along with the drums and bass of Mohawk cousins Gene and Barry Diablo, Julian sings of ‘The Ridge’, the place where he grew up. A singing narrative, “It was mornings like these when the breeze whistled through the trees. The fog would hover and the grass would still be wet.” The fond remembrances remain, even as reality sets in, “Now there’s a west-bound wind, blowing through the ridge again. Stay in or go outside, and wait for it to die, but either way it never ends.”
The pedal steel of Burke Carroll provides a mournful counterpoint to the acoustic guitar of ‘Human Race’. A song dealing with the longing that comes from constantly trying to fit in while also struggling with the death of a close relation. Taylor relates, “Watching you go through so much pain isn’t easy. That’s why a wake always leaves a trace.” Just a bit later he adds, “We all feel out of place, in the human race.”
There’s an Everly Brothers feel to ‘Love Enough’. Although the vocal line is sung solo, the grooves are filled with the dust of ages along. When Justin hits the high note in the chorus you can almost feel the ghost of Phil looking down, nodding in approval. The spoken word opening to ‘Let’s Dance’ establishes an Native American context to ‘Ola, Dance With Me’, yet what follows is a tribute to healing power of being in someone’s arms.
Connecting to who you are and what you are can bind us together or tear us apart. We make choices. Listening to Julian Taylor traversing The Ridge there is hope, if we choose to find it.