Taylor has long been a troubadour of lost times, lost loves and the lure of the open road. On his 13th album, his signature assets are all present: the twangy, reedy voice; the rock, folk and gospel-infused melodies; and the lyrics—now wry, now yearning, now self-referential. In New Moon Shine, in fact, he expands his vision with a song about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., another about a Vietnam vet and one that tidily sums up the '80s under Reagan: "Take all the money that we need for school/ And to keep the street people in out of the cold/ Spend it on a weapon you can never use/ Make the world an offer that they can't refuse."
Fortunately Taylor does not forsake his usual themes. Consider "Like Everyone She Knows," a wistful chronicle of a woman's thus-far futile search for love, and "Copperline," a piercingly lovely and lyrically adroit paean to Taylor's North Carolina boyhood. Taylor is no less careful and thoughtful with others' words and music than he is with his own. Sam Cooke's "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha" unfolds with an incalculable sweetness. (Columbia)