Mossy stones, wax-covered candlesticks, a harvest moon. These are but a few of the images the acoustic folk album Bad Debt conjures upon listening. When it reaches its final note, it is about God and love. In the artist’s own words, which are far superior to any rock criticism about the album, “the record is about my God: that is, whether I have one, and whether there is a place for me in this world. I don’t go to church, and I am not saved. I can party too.”
Though we may not all be religious, I think there is a universal sentiment within the songs here, one simultaneously of love and doubt toward life and how the world works.
During one of the most ear-grabbing moments of the record (in “No Lord is Free”), Taylor achingly cries out, “But why pledge my mind, my body and soul / When they don’t give a shit about me?” This beautiful confused ambiguity is contagious. The shyly blasphemous “Jesus Shot Me in the Head” is another ear-grabbing standout. Taylor desperately claims that, “He loves us all / But the ones that fall / Hold a special place in his ranks… Least I hope this is how it goes.”
The way he finds grace and elegance in the most precarious and uncertain of times is one of Bad Debt’s greatest strengths.
The most convincing part of this lyrical power is the attractiveness of the music. Bad Debt is intimate: Taylor quietly performed it to a cassette recorder in his kitchen while his newborn son slept in the other room — a lullaby of sorts. There’s a sting in Taylor’s voice that drains away my worries. It interests me in his stories, his pain. In short, I really, really like his voice.
The guitar playing can be exquisite too, like the lucid chords at the end of the chorus on “The Serpent is Kind.” The album functions fantastically as mood music with a few truly arresting moments. When looking to steep yourself in music that is relaxing with a touch of pain, Bad Debt is the place to go.
To me, this album represents the glory there is to be had in taking a chance.
See more of Ruben’s reviews at ravedeaf.com