Long Road Home

IT’S A DREARY AFTERNOON, SO JAMES Taylor is building us a fire. First he drags a bucket of kindling into the living room of his sprawling western Massachusetts house. Then he kneels on the rug in front of the hearth and begins, with deliberate precision, to chop up a few choice pieces of wood with a hatchet. Once the fire is crackling, he slowly unfolds himself into a standing position—all six-plus feet of him, still lanky and imposing at 71—and settles into a plush armchair. It’s the kind of scene that, in any other household, would be soundtracked by Taylor’s own music: the calming strains of “Carolina in My Mind” or the bittersweet tenderness of “Fire and Rain.”

That Taylor has ended up here—happily making music at the studio he built on this property, surrounded by his twin teen sons, wife of 19 years Kim, and an aging, wheezy pug, Ting—is more of a surprise to him than you’d think. he was a lost 21-year-old teetering between stardom and self-destruction. Now he’s looking back, excavating the dark corners of his childhood and youth in a new Audible Original memoir, that tracks his conflicted adolescence and path to becoming one of America’s most memorable troubadours. He’s also releasing his 19th album, a selection of acoustic reconstructions of old classics, many of them the Broadway show tunes on which he was raised.

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