This chart-topping album—Taylor’s first studio release in 13 years—arrives 45 years after his breakthrough LP Sweet Baby James. Many themes will be familiar to fans that have embraced this popular singer-songwriter’s gentle meditations on spiritual renewal. Those reflective sentiments, caressed by soothing vocals, can be heard on the title track, “Before This World/Springtime”—an English-folk–style medley featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma—and “Snow Time,” a lilting ballad about finding peace while on the road. The lure of traveling and the demands it puts on this family man inspire “Stretch of the Highway,” which sports a catchy Steely Dan-like groove. Not every song is autobiographical: “Angels of Fenway” tells the tale of a child attending a Red Sox game with his grandmother, and “Far Afghanistan” focuses on the soldiers who venture to that distant war zone. Still, his confessional material is his deepest, as on “You and I Again,” in which he sings of missed opportunities, while the album’s upbeat opener, “Today Today Today,” is a personal call to action. Recorded in a barn behind his rural Massachusetts home with his longtime rhythm section, Before This World radiates a warm intimacy that helps to carry this welcome return to form.