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Public Faces and Places

Free Spirit

Staff choice: James Michael Taylor

The local folk scene’s most inventive songwriter — a strong statement but it’s true — is a liberated cuss who’s played the clubs since the 1970s, sometimes solo, sometimes with Texas Water, a trio that consists of himself, his wife, and his ex-wife (told you he’s a free spirit). He’s a handyman who can put up Sheetrock, yank a water heater, or frame a window. He drives an old van to the Kerrville Folk Festival and stays the entire three weeks, immersing himself in late-night campfire singalongs, yet doesn’t drink, smoke, or use drugs. As an actor, he most recently landed a bit part on Fox’s Prison Break — but he also works behind the scenes as a union stage rigger at places like Bass Hall. Skills listed on his online resumé include yoyo champ, iron sculptor, backhoe operator, and juggler. He spends hours in his home studio writing and recording some of the most biting but thoughtful lyrics you’ll ever hear. The Weekly stopped by his house unannounced on a recent afternoon and the gaunt 62-year-old jack-of-all-trades answered his doorbell wearing a robe and looking like a prison camp inmate — he had shaved off his long silver hair for a tv audition.

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