Caffe Lena’s Bright Series Shines with Taylor Ashton

Canadian musician Taylor Ashton’s wildly romantic lyrics and delicious vocals brightened the historic Caffe Lena’s listening room on Saturday, May 15th. Playing two sets of distinctively unique pieces, Ashton exemplified how technique and emotion combine to emerge with unparalleled beauty.

Ashton and percussionist Jason Burger took the stage donning baseball caps and quietly initiated the music with songs of lost love and lost dreams. Ashton’s ability to stay on pitch while effortlessly contrasting volume with tender words of love was spellbinding. 

Charmingly corny, Ashton’s lyrics and chit chat between songs betrayed his sentimental and sensitive personality. He pulled out his banjo as he explained that he felt the concept of time travel, while totally not probable, was a sweet idea; he then transitioned to the song “Nicole,” a song about re-doing a relationship after failure. Ashton’s range again was demonstrated here, as was a beautiful interplay with his percussionist.

The entire first set was satisfying and could convince anyone of Ashton’s talent. “Speaking in Tongues” had a funky vibe matched with memorable imagery. “We speak in teeth and fingertips” clung to memory for the rest of the evening.

Ashton’s songs, unlike many other artists, don’t all sound alike. Often unidentified talent will go for creating a specific sound, but Ashton broke out of that mold by taking on different instruments and vocal styles throughout the night. At the start of the second set, he began on piano with vocals that sounded like Jack Johnson or Randy Newman, very different from the earlier Jason Mraz sound. 

And unlike these better-known talents, Ashton laid bare grief involved in both connection and loss with credibility. “When you remember where you belong, I’ll be waiting where you belong” he repeated with palpable and authentic emotion.

If listeners had thought they heard all Ashton had to offer earlier in the night, they were about to be delighted. Set two was exceptional. A highlight of the evening was the song “To Lift the Curse,” a bluesy and sexy song that again demonstrated stylistic shifts. “Straight Back,” his sing along, correlated posture with coping with loss; this correlation was so new and yet so incredibly connected to how loss feels in the body that it seemed like I had always felt the concept. How we hold our bodies “since I can’t hold yours” echoed deeply within this writer’s bones.

The encore, speaking of bones, was “Skeletons by the Sea,” Jim’s favorite song of the night. Ashton disclosed he feels all people are beautiful, and he loves watching bodies shed clothes the closer they get to water. Witty, intelligent, this piece was a love song to people.

Taylor Ashton is not only a bright artist on the scene, but he may also be the brightest artist to shine in the coming twelve months. Give his album “The Romanic” a deep listen; you are likely hearing some soon-to-be nominated/awarded art. And you will be rewarded with the refreshing vibe of love songs that will stay in your veins for hours past the listen.

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