Who knew that, when longtime Raleigh rocker Eddie Taylor finally shelved his grimy, dozen-years-old, garage-punk duo The Loners, he'd suddenly write some of the most interesting material of his career? Taylor's new quintet, Cousins, harks back to the music of the 53-year-old's teens. He explores loose, windows-down fare, making country-tinged album rock that evokes the Grateful Dead and Sticky Fingers-era Stones, the Eagles and even Lindsey Buckingham.
The airy, light-footed twang of the group's five-song debut EP offers a brighter tone than Taylor's past, representing in part his attempt to move beyond the bitterness of divorce toward something more life-affirming. If the lyrics don't always make it, the music usually does, offering strong hooks and anthems of perseverance. Though Taylor's feeling "a little jaded, a little cruel" during the catchy rock ballad "Black and Blue," Jeff Clarke's reverb-lifted guitar and Mike Tutt's syrupy bass envelop the sentiment like an overstuffed couch. Meanwhile, "Magnolia" is just some sugar short of the Dead; above the folk strumming, Greg Rice's keyboards swell like a high tide. Horns even cut in for the final minute.
Cousins EP closes with the bittersweet five-and-a-half-minute Southern rock of "The Lie," an unhurried number where guitars trade answering licks until the last call goes unreturned. "There's no heaven, there ain't no hell," Taylor declares in the final stanza. "There's only flesh, bone and love."
There's blood all over these tracks, sure, but this is more exorcism than bloodletting, more open road than dead end.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Starts and fits"