Chip Taylor, right, poses with Hill Country Live director Lincoln Schofield at Taylor's performance Thursday night. (Photo: Thom Duffy)
At Hill Country Barbeque Market, the down-home eatery, and the showcase club Hill Country Live, in Manhattan's Flatiron neighborhood, fans come for the food as well as the music. Just ask film director Spike Lee who was dining at a front table Thursday night.
(Lee, it's worth noting, steps in front of the camera for "Brooklyn Boheme," the new Showtime documentary about the black arts scene that emerged in the `80s and `90s in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, directed by music writer and former Billboard R&B columnist Nelson George.)
But fans walking past Lee's table were heading downstairs to fill Hill Country's music room for a performance by Chip Taylor, the songwriter best known for penning "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit for the Troggs in July 1966, and "Angel of the Morning," which went top ten for Merilee Rush in 1968 and again for Juice Newton in 1981. Taylor need not pull out those calling cards to pull a crowd, however.
Before taking the stage, Taylor was greeted by Lincoln Schofield, director of Hill Country Live, who has been turning this 26th Street venue into one the best Americana music clubs New York has seen since the heyday of the Lone Star Roadhouse.
"This is the best Texas place you can get in New York," declared Taylor.
For this evening's record release party, Schofield proudly wore a t-shirt festooned with the bold title of Taylor's newest country-roots CD, "F**k All The Perfect People." Taylor has filmed an alluring video of the title track with four-time Juno Award winning director Jeth Weinrich.
For Taylor, the disc released on his own Train Wreck Records label, is part of a remarkably prolific run for the singer/songwriter, his sixth album in four years. Those discs include "The New Bye & Bye" cut with longtime collaborator Carrie Rodriguez, and "Yonkers NY," Taylor's autobiographical album about the family he grew up with in a suburb north of New York.
And what a family it was. Born James Wesley Voight, Taylor is the brother of noted volcano expert Barry Voight and Academy Award winning actor Jon Voight (which, of course, makes Taylor the uncle of Jon Voight's daughter, Angelina Jolie).
Backed by a band that includes guitarist John Platania ( Van Morrison's rhythm guitar on "Moondance"), Taylor offered a set that was both relaxed and compelling.
Among the highlights was "Hey Jonny (Did You Feel That Movie)" recounting when he and brother Jon saw the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle," and watched teenagers jump into the aisles to dance to Billy Haley's "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock."
A skilled raconteur, Taylor set up his show-closer with the tale of a friend from the `60s, a "scary" musician who called himself Jimmy James. Taylor recalled how the friend moved to England, found success, and began closing shows with the Troggs' "Wild Thing," performing now under his given name, Jimi Hendrix.