There are songs that bring tears to your eyes. Sad songs. Songs about lost love and missed opportunity. Then there are songs that make you cry openly. Songs about death and regret and the ones who’ve gotten away. On the other side of the spectrum, there are songs that beg you to sing along, to dance, to laugh. Happy songs. Songs about found love and triumph and empowerment.
Then there are the songs on Sunny Taylor’s latest EP.
These four stunning tracks – “Highview Drive,” “Paper Tiger (Getting Over It),” “Break My Heart Please” and my personal favorite, “Trucker” – run the emotional gamut from devastation to celebration, often in the same song. They’ll have you smiling through your tears, whistling while you weep. The complexity of both the songwriting and the arrangements on this self-titled work delivers that all-too-elusive satisfaction that can only come from hearing a truly great piece of music. It’s better than a good book, a wonderful meal, a flawless movie. These songs bring the entire banquet, and even though Taylor’s latest effort is an EP – and hence on the short side – you will not walk away hungry. Or at least you’ll simply be eager for the full-length to come out as soon as possible. (Incidentally, Taylor told me she can’t wait either. New songs are ready and simply waiting to be recorded.)
It’s been four years since Taylor’s accomplished and award-winning full-length Lock the Door and Leave, and in that time she’s not only amassed an incredibly loyal fanbase in and around Fort Wayne (she is, without a doubt, one of this town’s most beloved musicians) but she’s also matured as a songwriter and singer. I can’t say anything negative about Lock the Door – songs like “Overcast,” “Unresolve” and “Weightless” have gotten me through many a rainy day, made me feel in lonely times like I wasn’t alone at all – but the tracks on this EP, which Taylor recorded in the Nashville studio of much-respected independent producer Mark Hornsby, show a new side of Taylor, a grown-up, fully realized womanly side that I can’t help but credit to her life as a mother of three girls, a wife, an artist who knows how to juggle what she wants with what she needs.
They also exhibit a full, richly textured sound, thanks in part to the incredible session musicians Taylor worked with at Hornsby’s Java Jive studio – Tom Hemby (electric guitar), Phil Naish (piano and keyboards), Scott Williamson (drums), Dirk Darken (percussion) and Brian Beller (bass) – and the string arrangements of John Hinchey. But this collection would be nothing without Taylor’s smoky, sure voice and sharp pen which, together, spin poetry out of everything from loneliness and divorce to what it means to have a home and be human.
The EP begins with “Trucker,” a song Taylor wrote after talking with a friend who felt very much on the outside of things. While others wake up to family, friends, lovers, she wakes up to her “best-laid plans.” I dare you to listen to this track and remain stoic and unmoved. It’s impossible. The song progresses through a woman’s day and night, the evening sky reminding her of the one who’s missing from her life. In Taylor’s hands, the mundane becomes the sublime and vice-versa. A window lamp is “a conflagration,” the heavens, the map of the human heart.
Next up is “Highview Drive” a song that took Taylor 10 minutes to write and years to record. It’s another tear-jerker that, in this case, deals with a bittersweet childhood marred by divorce. In this complicated track, bird houses mingle with dog cemeteries, comfort with anguish. No matter the tenor of your younger years, “Highview Drive” is guaranteed to strike a chord and have you reminiscing about your first home and earliest memories. And, if you’re like me, it’ll have you going to Google earth to see the place. Don’t bother. Taylor’s depiction is the one that matters.
“Highview Drive” is followed by “Paper Tiger (Getting Over It)” a wonderful primer on how to survive heartbreak of both the small and earth-shaking variety. It’s the most upbeat tune on the EP and has an irresistible melody that will creep into your consciousness and have you asking unanswerable questions like “How do you kiss goodbye to a face you’ve never kissed?” Here’s another question: Has longing ever found a more concise expression?
The EP ends with the moving and majestic “Break My Heart Please.” The title would seem an odd request, but one listen makes it all clear. This is vulnerability in song form. Anyone who’s ever loved someone will recognize in this track an undeniable truth. Sometimes sympathy and kindness from another is the most heartbreaking thing of all. “I know myself a little too well,” Taylor sings. “It’s why you should give me hell.”
I’d rather give her her props. She certainly knows herself and her art well. The Sunny Taylor EP blends folk with country and rock and the best parts of pop for a sound that is, to paraphrase a friend and fellow Taylor fan, unlike anything that has come out of Fort Wayne before. Some of the best singer-songwriters – Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Dar Williams – have nothing on Sunny. Before I can be accused of hyperbole, get yourself a copy of this EP. (They’re available for $8 on www.sunnytaylormusic.com.) I stand by my words. To listen to Sunny Taylor the artist and Sunny Taylor the EP is to know you’re in good hands, to relax and relish the unique pleasure of enjoying the work of an artist who has hit her stride and can’t – won’t – be stopped.
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Tessa Lark w/Peter Klimo — Classical at Arts Place, Portland, 7:30 p.m., $8-$18, 726-4809
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at 469 Sports & Spirits, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 749-7207
Open Jam — Hosted by G-Money at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Variety at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
41st High School Exhibition — Student art from Great Lakes region high schools, daily thru March 19, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
An Exploration of Perspective — Multimedia works by Deborah Robinson Miller, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild March Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru March 31, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday, March 5-April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Liberations of Line & Matter — Digital works by Adam Meyer, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Maurice Keltsch Art Collection — Works from the collection of the late pharmacist and patron of Fort Wayne arts, daily thru March 19 , Goldfish Gallery, Rolland Arts Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-8064
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26 , Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Overlapping in the Proximity of the Sublime — Works by Ashley Beatty, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Semantic Sequences — Exhibition of letterpress prints by Stephanie Carpenter, assistant director of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Student Highlights Exhibition: 3D — Works from students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts’ 3D studio art program, daily thru March 19, John P. Weatherhead Gallery and Goldfish Gallery, Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Tim Brumbeloe Retrospective — A retrospective of local photographer’s works over the past 25 years, Monday-Friday thru March 17, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Artlink Educational Programs — Art classes offered by Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, dates and times vary, Artlink, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-7195
Fort Wayne Dance Collective Workshops — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, dates and times vary, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574
IPFW Community Arts Academy— Art, dance, music and theater classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977, www.ipfw.edu/caa
Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, call for pricing, 432-8176, academy.sweetwater.com
Tincture Trivia — Trivia night for teams of 4 or 6 people, 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Nick’s Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, free, 482-6425
Watercolor Instruction — Artist Tom De Somer of De Somer Fine Art Studio offers watercolor painting instruction 6:30-8:30 p.m. the first four Thursdays of each month, Indiana Wesleyan University, Fort Wayne, $144/four-week course, 805-328-8336, www.desomerart.com/classes