Produced by Dave O’Donnell, Before This World features ten songs, nine of which are brand new James Taylor compositions. When it came time to record these songs, Taylor enlisted many of his longtime musical allies including guitarist Michael Landau, keyboardist Larry Goldings, percussionist Luis Conte, drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Jimmy Johnson. Close friends Yo-Yo Ma and Sting also add their singular gifts to a couple of tracks (Ma’s cello graces "You And I Again” and "Before This World,” Sting’s harmony vocal underscores "Before This World.”) Taylor’s wife Kim and son Henry enrich the proceedings further; bringing family style harmony to Taylor’s baseball love letter "Angels Of Fenway” and the classic folk tune "Wild Mountain Thyme.”
Taylor is thankful to be making music and to be doing so with a trusted and winning musical team. "I’ve got a good recording situation in my home studio, a great relationship working with Dave O’Donnell, and an amazing community of players, great musicians with whom I go back, some of them to the mid-Seventies, so I wanted to record with this musical community.”
On Before This World, Taylor continues to explore many of the themes that have absorbed him throughout his recording career, from his 1968 self-titled debut on Apple Records, to early classics like 1970’s Sweet Baby James and 1971’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon to fan favorites like 1975’s Gorilla and 1977’s JT to more recent masterpieces like 1997’s Hourglass and 2002’s October Road.
"The themes that really engage me keep pulling me back again and again,” says Taylor. "For instance, on the new album there’s a recovery song called "Watchin’ Over Me”. I’ve written many recovery songs that are almost spiritual and based on personal experience. There’s a love song on this album ("You And I Again”) -- a couple actually -- a traveling song ("Stretch of the Highway”), there’s a song about working ("Today Today Today”) and another of my hymns for agnostics I tend to write ("Before This World”.) My sort of self-expression and the autobiographical aspect of my work is a thru-line that links all my albums together. I think I have grown musically, and I think people can hear it in what I played in ‘68, and you can hear it in what I’m singing about now. It is ongoing, it’s still me, but it’s still evolving.”