Emerging from the swamps of The Blessing and ploughing through the
rocky Blues of his solo albums, William Topley delivers an album of
acoustic tunes dripping with imagery from across the globe. Anchored
by William’s unique vocal, once praised by legendary Muscle Shoals
producer Barry Beckett as “the best he’d ever worked with”, and
accompanied by the muscular acoustic guitar of long time musical
associate Luke Brighty with additional vocals and sterling support from
Dorie Jackson, Water Taxi lures you into a world of acoustic wonder.
The track listing features something old, lots of new and all wrapped up in lush vocals, tight harmonies and rich guitar plucking to give you a well rounded and substantial musical feast. Once again William draws on his much travelled past and veracious appetite for new places and adventures to take the listener on a journey that will transport you from the mundane and humdrum to exotic climes with dangerous women and liquor, without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Water Taxi features acoustic versions of two of William’s back catalogue namely Delta Rain from The Blessing’s first record Prince of Deep Water and Sweetheart from their second record, Locusts and Wild Honey, which will be familiar to current William fans. The album starts with Hummingbird (co-write with leading Nashville writer Daryl Burgess), followed by Stony Ground with a lyric derived from a window staring moment from the back of William’s house. Water Taxi relates the tale of William’s journeys from the Bahamas to Denver and Trouble Comes At Night is a diary from the last band tour he undertook in the US. Spanish Waters continues William’s exploration of John Masefield’s poetry and Watch The Wall is another Hemmingway style adventure, co-written with Toby Tyler. After Delta Rain, I’ll Be Gone features Luke on Spanish guitar and the mood abruptly shifts for Luck Don’t Change, which is a minute of Acapella, which should be longer. Don’t Do That No More is another co-write with Gary Nicholson and Delbert McLinton, which runs into Sweetheart and brings the album to a conclusion.
Take time out from the hustle and bustle, sit back and enjoy an album, which for once deserves to be listened to as a whole. It’s 45 minutes of time well spent.
I used to do trips to Nashville in the hope of learning something from the talented songwriters there and it was a privilege to work with some of the great ones. The elusive country hit has thus far escaped me but I loved being in Tennessee and I think my songs did get better as a result. I wrote the laid back 'Hummingbird' with Darryl Burgess on the balcony of the Universal Music Publishing building on Music Row in the heat of June. The inspiration came from the actual Hummingbirds I saw in the garden at the house down Granny White. Any garden with Hummingbirds and Fireflies (or lightening bugs as I learned to call them) is all right by me!
A song about farmers and climate. I live in a farming area and don't think I could ever go back to living in a city. Searching for a lyric idea to go with one of Luke's great chord sequences, I simply looked out of the window and sung about the farm across the way. The line about the 'Water we draw from the well has been tasting sour' was suggested by Chris Stewart's book 'Driving over Lemons' and the plea, 'How we'll heel this hurting land, I'll never know' is in truth, a tribute to my own limited achievements as a landscape gardener in my own back yard!
A very real form of transport where I lived in Harbour Island in the Bahamas. To get to Dunmore Town and visit the legendary pink sand beach, you have to get a water taxi from Three island dock, near the airport at north Eleuthera, to the Government dock on Briland as it is known locally. Even the most jaded traveller would have to admit, to a frisson of excitement, as they cross the clear, glass calm water of Cistern bay, towards the tiny clap board village that looks like something out of the South Seas, but is only 250 miles from Miami. I went to Colorado twice from there and this song is about that journey but it took a chilly January morning in Dominic Millers studio in France, to bring the story to life, as all the words came out in a quite serious attempt to conjure up the feeling of 'seep through the bones' warmth I missed so much!
Trouble Comes At Night
A Dylan-esque travelogue covering the last band tour we did in America. Austin, Polk Street, Denver and LA all get a look in as the boys (all now in their forties of course) trudge hungover, sun bleached and dusty, from one mythic song town to the next. Touring America doesn't just promote your music it re-invigorates it and for British groups it reinforces a band spirit that is one of the true upsides of all this bizarre activity. Luke plays a great harmonica part in the middle 8 section and his long drawn out bends on the reeds mirror the whistle of the Santa Fe Chief or some such traveller’s romance! Now where did I put my Aztec elite...
Another poem by John Masefield, in fact the next one down in my anthology, from Seafever. Along with those two and Sweet William I am trying to get folky with other people's poetry. I love the long list of jewellery in the middle verse and the conversational tone of the pirate as he says 'there was gear there, make a beggar-man as rich as Lima town'. Luke produced a compelling guitar riff to go with it, which Jim then told me was called an 'ear worm’. Charming!
Watch The Wall
From Kipling this time I believe, another tale of smuggling and daring do. Across two hundred years and four thousand miles, one chap tells of his exploits in the waters of the channel and the Gulf Stream. Rubbing shoulders with Hemmingway and the Scarlet Pimpernel in Bimini and Normandy respectively, he gets his come uppence in the notorious Normans Cay of the 1980's. Written with Toby Tyler in the wonderful Landing Hotel.
An old favourite of mine, this version with Dorie is closer to how I heard it originally than the Blessing version but it is so long ago that I wrote it I can hardly remember life before Delta Rain. In my early twenties I spent three weeks staying with a school friend in the French Quarter and the characters of the quarter still fascinate me. Fireflies (again), French soldiers and bell trees, a plantation bodice ripper of the old school!
I'll Be Gone
Written at Monestevole in Italy with Amber Rubarth, who is from Nevada. This camping trip romance is all about Western skies and kindling! Luke picks up a gut string Spanish guitar for his solo and all around the campfire, grizzled cow pokes are reduced to blubbing girls! 'I'll keep you warm tonight darling but tomorrow you know I'll be gone'. I think those are the mots juste.
Luck Don't Change
Acapella rules in this 58-second misanthropic mini moan!
'It won't be the last time I'll be lonely baby yeah'!
Don't Do That No More.
Another Nashville song this time with Gary Nicholson and the redoubtable Delbert McLinton. Delbert taught John Lennon how to play harmonica in Hamburg and I always loved his song 'Giving it up for your love' so it was a real pleasure to spend the day with him and listen to his superb voice in the room as he experimented with lyric ideas. It was great to get together with Jim and Kevin to play the backing track and Luke and Dorie and I all enjoyed playing it live in December. NB Everything that glisters is not gold; check your copy of the Merchant of Venice, California.
As we all know nostalgia is not what it used to be but looking back at old songs is sometimes allowed, in private, under correct supervision, with the appropriate safety procedures in place. In this case we have again gone back to the original idea and kept it simple, what I had feared was a somewhat bitter lyric now sounds like a perfectly normal declaration of love but that's just getting older I expect. Anyway as the great Noel Coward said in 'Present Laughter'. 'Come along Dear, away with melancholy, it's a quarter past eleven!'