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Maria Taylor And Louis Schefano’s “Light Of The World” Reviewed

Maria Taylor collects people like other people collect seashells, then she shines em up and keeps them forever. Whether it is her High School sweetheart Louis Schefano, or me, a stranger who interviewed her once and has still always felt welcome to contact her,  or Conor Oberst, who sang and appeared in the video for “If Only” (If you think you don’t know that song, you probably would if you heard it as it was used in the most popular dramatic program in the country, “This Is Us”). Maria’s life is one extended family, her mother comments on her posts, her son dances in the corner of her video, her brother Macey Taylor plays bass in her band,  the woman who sat next to Maria  on the plane ride to NYC is in the audience for her concerts, the woman is the embodiment of a love and peace vibe.

In 2002, Saddle Creek released A Christmas Album, traditional Christmas songs performed and arranged by Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Maria Taylor, all proceeds benefited the Nebraska AIDS Project; the album stands up nicely, the opener “Away In A Manger” is a minimalist haunt of a songs building into a hushed benediction for all mankind. Fast forward 15 years, Maria, who used to perform with Louis in her pre-Azure Ray band Little Red Rocket, have released a new(ish) Christmas song together. Maria responded to my questions:  “Louis was my high school boyfriend. Well, I was in high school…. he was in his 20s. Ha. Anyway – we wrote this song in ‘94 together. A couple of weeks ago I remembered parts of it and told him we should re-record it.” They had given it away to friends on cassette but nobody still had it. “The problem we ran into was that we couldn’t remember lots of it. We took what we could remember and turned it into something new. Changed the verse melody, added the piano, changed the drums to a shuffle beat and wrote new uplifting verse lyrics. So my long winded answer is : we both wrote it.”

“Light Of The World,” isn’t Christian Contemporary Music as such, and it isn’t a secular carol if it is a carol at all. Jesus may be the light but the call out goes to “love and hope,” and nature’s changing seasons. Behind a plunked bass which makes you think that you are getting a jazz song, the duo swerves left and that shuffle beat by Louis with wire brushes scraping the skins  as the duo share in a song of renewal, plus a keen guitar lick and a tune played out on piano, lead you into a lustrous winter wonderland. Any Maria fan doesn’t need to be told that the melody is yet another beauty in a career brimming over with them, her touch is so sure that TV programs can use her to deepen any emotion they want to arc. This one is quiet, and like so much of her work (I don’t mean to shortchange Louis here, it is clearly a collaboration) it adds a dimension to happiness that implies a mortality: the background diffidence doesn’t deny the song, it just nudges you to make the most of it as the song and the seasons enjoins us to get through life together.

What else? Next month,  Azure Ray will reunite to play at the Lodge Room Highland Park in L.A. I certainly hope and assume rock nyc’s West Coast Editor Alyson Camus will cover it for us. As for New York? “We might book a show there. Gonna see how LA goes first.”

Finally, “Light Of The World” is available via Flower Moon Records (here)

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