Whither Taylor Martin’s Engine?

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Taylor Martin can be a bit hard to track down, but he and the rotating cast of players who make up Taylor Martin’s Engine provide a fun evening once you find them.

Given the fact that it was the World Series and Tolliver’s Crossing is basically a sports bar, expectations of a good night of music were low. Luckily, it’s always better to be pleasantly surprised as opposed to sorely disappointed, and Taylor Martin’s Engine did not disappoint.

The Engine appears to be a cast of rotating characters, although lately it seems that Ricky Cooper on upright bass and Lyndsay Pruett on the fiddle are pretty much regulars. This show was rounded out by Pete James of the Honeycutters on electric guitar and Paco Shipp on harmonica. Frontman Taylor Martin plays acoustic guitar, writes the songs and sings.

As is most music in Asheville these days, Martin’s brand is hard to classify into a specific genre. It’s a bouncy mix between folk and rock, with generally dark lyrics that somehow leave the listener feeling good. His songwriting is smart and easy to relate to, interspersed with little gems like, “never hitch your wagon to a falling star.” Martin is naturally funny and entertaining, so his between-song stage banter, introductions and asides are as much a part of the show as the music.

The first pleasant surprise of the night was Shipp on harmonica. There are so many performers who strap a harmonica around their necks and do some rhythmic huffing and puffing to supplement their guitar playing. Shipp drives home the point that the harmonica is an instrument to be reckoned with, John Popper style. And, in a custom-made leather harmonica holster, it was apparent that Shipp was not messing around. He had two microphones with different effects that he rotated from song to song, giving each harp solo a new sound.

James was also fun to watch on stage. The size and array of his pedal board might rival that of U2’s The Edge, and he seemed to spend just as much time turning knobs and stomping pedals as he did playing. The results were worth it: His tone was impeccable and his guitar seemed to have different personalities to fit each of Martin’s song moods.

Cooper and Pruett are staples of the local bluegrass scene, but both of their talents extend far beyond that. Cooper holds down an essential steady bass groove for Taylor Martin’s Engine, sliding between reggae beats, honky tonk and the infectious walking bass line. For music fans who’ve never seen Pruett play the fiddle on stage, go see her. There are ample opportunities as she seems to be Asheville’s most in-demand pick up fiddler/violinist.

Taylor Martin’s Engine doesn’t have a huge online presence, so it’s tricky to find a schedule of upcoming dates. Here’s a hint: “Like” Martin’s music page on Facebook to get his updates for local shows.

— Stacy Claude is a local musician, freelance writer and author of Asheville Roots Music Review at avlrootsreview.blogspot.com.

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