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Dennis Taylor: Dayspring Reissue Review

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Dennis Taylor: <i>Dayspring</i> Reissue Review

A few mysteries still await discovery amid the avalanche of unearthed, solo guitar music currently being reissued. Dennis Taylor’s one of those. And while every town is surely home to at least one player summoning the spiraling guitar feats of forbearers like Leo Kottke and Robbie Basho, Taylor’s a reasonably interesting figure.

Dayspring, the early-1980s album being reissued by Grass-Tops, features a hearty-looking Midwesterner keenly focused on his guitar as album art. The sort of concentration depicted in that image finds itself easily reflected in the solo music within. But the album seems to be the lone, solo release by a guy who’s been consistently playing in and around Nebraska for about 30 years.

Like Don Bikoff or Richard Crandell, who’ve both had work re-released by Tompkins Square Records, Taylor might harbor thoughts of getting back into the public eye as a solo performer. Since the release of his 1983 album, though, he’s been playing in Om Boys, perched up there in Lincoln, Nebraska. The duo, which consists of Taylor and Dave Novak on percussion, is clearly an extension of the Eastern-enchanted work the guitarist has dealt with for decades, just as likely to take up a gamelan hue as American primitivism.

Gigging in the duo didn’t distract Taylor from working up 10 tracks for this 1983 solo album, though. Dayspring might be a bit sedate compared to Om Boys’ worldly music and at least a bit derivative of the Takoma axis of players. But it’s more than a worthy addition to the canon.

While Taylor’s predecessors were as concerned with melody as rhythm, Dayspring offers a number of startlingly complex themes. “Dawning Point,” one of a handful of songs that obliquely call to mind religious concepts through its name, is a four-minute unfolding of a slowly-picked progression that doesn’t clearly resolve itself. No one’s going to be whistling this, despite some clear refrains. At least three sections tick by, each seamlessly ebbing toward the next. And even when the song seems to return to its initial phrase, the whole thing’s so knotty, it’s difficult to figure out if there’s a clear restatement or a new variation on a theme being dispensed.

That Taylor’s Dayspring never caught fire upon initial release isn’t a complete shock—the combination of stylistic choice and being from Nebraska couldn’t have been a huge selling point. But even during a time that’s littered with dug-up artifacts professing their own greatness, this inwardly-focused performer making his way out to the world in such inauspicious fashion deserves a re-examination.

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