As you traverse the rolling landscape of ‘Hotels And Dreamers’ Allan Taylor draws you in with a richly grained collection of songs to stimulate both heart and head. The terrain is occupied by wise-but-weary vocals, and muted acoustic arrangements which conspire to pay gentle and affectionate homage to “the Beats who started me on this road” and contemporaries who also took this route less travelled.
Opening track, the breathy ‘The Beat Hotel’ stars not only the Rue Git-le-Couer, Paris establishment itself, but also its cast of transient residents – Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso, - those desolation angels intent on anarchy in the Art Establishment, that Allan manifestly wishes he’d had the chance to hang out with. He ran with their late ‘60s followers-on, most of them now having paid the ultimate price. Alex Campbell, Derroll Adams, Colin Scot, Tony Capstick and sadly, many others haunt the particularly affecting ‘For Those We Knew,’ driving themselves penniless and crazy “through neon lights of midnight hues” and Taylor is no iconoclast, valuing the days and the ways that shaped his experiences, and making him a sadder but a more sapient man.
A sophisticated musician and a writer of intensity and brevity, most of the material here has an emotional reach that leaves you reeling. Always conveying sincerity, the listener’s ear is prepared for Allan’s straightforward sentiment but his character writing is so subtle, the darkness of the subject matter on this album quietly reveals itself and perception adjusts, like vision would to a dim room. The nostalgic sensuality of ‘Los Companeros’ sketches the dilution of the Cuban revolutionary ethic and the betrayal of that particular romance, whilst the apparently light ‘Mission Hotel’ has a fateful melancholy that spells ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ ahead for Anna, its protagonist.
Peopled by the footloose and the feckless but always the human - ordinary persons coping as best they can, is surely the very stuff of folk-song? Streaked too, with moments that recall Tom Waits’ best work, Allan Taylor is a singularly seductive songwriter. These are direct songs but they trigger complex responses. Elegiac, resigned even. When you’re emotionally broke and busted, you can still follow those dreams. Sometimes they’re your only way out.