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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Otis Taylor “White African” 2001 US Northern Blues,Acoustic Blues


Otis Taylor “White African” 2001 US  Northern Blues,Acoustic Blues
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Otis Taylor has a knack for interesting titles; Blue-Eyed Monster and When Negros Walked the Earth are among the CDs that the Denver bluesman recorded before White African. Taylor also has a knack for very dark and sobering themes – this 2001 release, in fact, is full of them. On White African, Taylor’s subject matter ranges from lynching in the Deep South (“Saint Martha Blues”) to homelessness (“Hungry People”) to being unable to afford health care for a sick, dying child (“3 Days and 3 Nights”). And Taylor doesn’t try to sugarcoat his often disturbing lyrics with happy melodies. Greatly influenced by John Lee Hooker, the very soulful Taylor often favors moody, dusky, haunting grooves. So White African is as dark musically as it is lyrically. Over the years, dark humor has played a major role in the blues – like country and hip-hop artists, bluesmen are known for finding a variety of humorous, clever ways to tell you how cruel and punishing life can be. But White African isn’t dark humored; it’s simply dark. This CD is also incredibly compelling, and it is enthusiastically recommended to those who don’t expect lighthearted escapism from all of their music….by Alex Henderson…~

Bluesman Otis Taylor never skirted tough subject matter in a career that took him from the Folklore Center in Denver to a brief stay in London, England, to retirement from music in 1977, to being a successful antiques broker and, since 1995, back again to the blues. Taylor’s 2001 album White African (Northern Blues Music), featuring Kenny Passarelli (bass, keyboards) and Eddie Turner (lead guitar), became his most direct and personal statement about the experiences of African-Americans. He addressed the lynching of his great-grandfather and the murder of his uncle. Brutality became his concern in songs about a black man executed in the ‘30s for a murder he did not commit, and about a father who could not afford doctor’s bills and and had to sit powerless watching his son die. Faith met Taylor’s irony in his vision of Jesus as a mortal man who looked for ways to avoid his crucifixion and in his take on romantic infidelity among common men. 

Taylor’s first album, Blue-Eyed Monster, and 1997’s When Negroes Walked the Earth also cast an uneasy spell on the blues world. Some of Taylor’s music would feel comfortable on the back roads of the Delta in the '20s and '30s. It came as no surprise when he interpreted Charley Patton’s “Stone Pony” on a Shanachie Records compilation, Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues: New Acoustic Recordings of Pre-War Blues Classics, which also featured popular blues performers such as Alvin Youngblood Hart, John Hammond, Duke Robillard, and Corey Harris. At other times, Taylor’s music was so uncompromisingly contemporary in its outlook on social injustices that he seemed more akin to South African poet and activist Stephen Biko. 

Taylor was born in Chicago in 1948. After his uncle was murdered, his family moved to Denver for apparent safe haven. Taylor took an interest in blues and folk music at Denver’s Folklore Center. After hearing Etta James sing “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You,” Taylor knew he liked the blues. He then went to the Folklore Center, where he heard the banjo, country blues, and Mississippi John Hurt. He also liked Junior Wells and Muddy Waters and got into folk-blues and Appalachian music. He learned to play guitar, banjo, and harmonica. Only several decades later did he begin to understand the ties of the blues and its instrumentation to the savannah of western Africa. 

By his mid-teens, he formed his first groups – the Butterscotch Fire Department Blues Band and later, the Otis Taylor Blues Band. He briefly stayed in England in 1969 to pursue a record deal with Blue Horizon, but negotiations failed and he returned to the U.S. In the '70s, he took up mandolin. He decided to leave music behind in 1976 and started a successful career as an antiques broker. After much prodding from Passarelli, Taylor returned to music in 1995. He first played a benefit concert. Then he started to play again both solo and with his band in America and Europe. In the summer of 2000, he received a composition fellowship from the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah, and hobnobbed with film celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival. 

His When Negroes Walked the Earth was released on Shoelace Records that same year. Taylor began participating in “Writing the Blues” in the Blues in the Schools program, sponsored by the National Blues Foundation, and he started writing and performing new songs in 2001. White African and Respect the Dead were released by Northern Blues in 2001 and 2002, respectively, followed by Taylor’s first release on Telarc Blues, Truth Is Not Fiction, in 2003. A second album on Telarc, Double V, came out in 2004, followed by Below the Fold in 2005 and Definition of a Circle two years later. The revelatory Recapturing the Banjo appeared in 2008, again from Telarc. The dark and jazzy Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs followed in 2009. Taylor wasted no time and followed it up with 2010’s Clovis People, Vol. 3 (volumes one and two do not exist). The musicians he assembled for the date are a testament to his ever-widening and eclectically expansive musical vision: daughter Cassie Taylor plays bass, and famed electric guitarist Gary Moore plays lead guitar; pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell and jazz trumpeter/cornetist Ron Miles are also featured on the recording. 

In 2010, after complaining of back pain, Taylor saw a doctor, who concluded he had a softball-sized cyst on his liver and spine. After scheduling surgery, he immediately entered a studio to cut new tracks “just in case.” Thankfully, Taylor survived, and completed work on Contraband, which was issued by Telarc in early 2012. For 2013’s My World Is Gone, the songwriter enlisted a larger band that included Ron Miles and Mato Nanji, lead guitarist from the band Indigenous. The 2015 album Hey Joe Opus: Red Meat featured cameos from Langhorne Slim and Warren Haynes, while 2017’s Fantasizing About Being Black found Taylor exploring contemporary race relations via a set of exploratory blues. ~ Robert Hicks…..~

Otis Taylor’s White African is one of the more haunting blues albums to be released in recent memory. Throughout the disc, Taylor digs deep into the heart and soul of the genre to tell tales of the downtrodden — the sick, the dying, the homeless — through the broader themes of bigotry, injustice, and heartache. There is sense of anger and disgust that bubbles just below the surface of the songs, allowing them to continue to resonate long after they’ve been played. 

Much of White African is sparsely recorded and sounds as if it was written on a Louisiana back porch many years ago. It largely recalls the minimalist blues of John Lee Hooker in the way that Taylor traverses each tracks’ soulful single-chord droning by deftly accompanying himself on guitar, banjo, mandolin, or harmonica. Even when other musicians are employed, they merely add subtleties to his songs. Guitarist Eddie Taylor provides a eerie wail of electric slide to Resurrection Blues, vocalist Cassie Taylor adds ghostly wisps to 3 Days and 3 Nights, and the sound of Kenny Passarelli’s sturdy slogging bass accents, rather than colors, Taylor’s rhythmic flourishes. White African is not the roadhouse blues of a Saturday night party. It’s the chillingly painful, singularly personal, and downright funereal blues that explains why a person might drink alone ….by John Metzger….~


“Taylor is a Colorado bluesman whose razor-edged message of human dignity slices to the blues idiom’s very heart of darkness. In a case-hardened social-expressionist mode, Taylor offers a merciless, brilliant minimalist deconstruction of racism, lynching ("St. Martha’s Blues”, based on his own great-grandfather’s end, as told by his grandmother), poverty, illness, homelessness, and other institutionalized features of the American social formation. Taylor stands to fill the shoes of John Lee Hooker, who passed into the spirit in 2001, together with Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Charley Patton–not to mention the forlorn denizen genius of the bedeviled global crossroads blues himself, Robert Johnson. Ignore Taylor’s searing message at your own and society’s peril.“-Michael Stone Pop Matters…..~

You may remember the fresh-faced blonde-locked duo that brought us the smash hit "Mmmm-bop” a few years back. Well, let’s place Mr. Taylor at the other end of the musical spectrum. From the album cover he seems to gaze down at us from hooded eyes, wearing an expression of both intensity and weariness, age and wisdom. 
Play the disk and it immediately becomes apparent that Taylor draws upon his intensity and wisdom to meld eloquent songs of pain and beauty, suffering and hope, despair and triumph. A master of acoustic string instruments (guitar, mandolin, banjo), Taylor’s blues fit squarely within the tradition of the genre, but the power of his feeling and deftness of composition give the music a freshness and immediacy that is surprising at a time when it is easy to feel that the limits of creativity have been exhausted. 
Perhaps the best example of his work from the cd is the first cut, “My Soul’s in Louisiana,” a paean for a hobo who was shot by police in retribution for a murder he did not commit. Every chord is heartfelt, each lyric chilling. As you fall into the pulse of the rhythm guitar and the clatter of the train (sampled in), you’ll join Taylor on a fascinating journey both musical and spiritual…..by….James T. Heeney…~

Credits 
Backing Vocals – Cassie Taylor 
Engineer – Mark Derryberry 
Guitar – Eddie Turner 
Keyboards, Bass – Kenny Passarelli 
Producer – Kenny Passarelli 
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, Harmonica – Otis Taylor

Tracklist 
1 My Soul’s In Louisiana 3:35 
2 Resurrection Blues 5:59 
3 Momma Don’t You Do It 2:24 
4 3 Days And 3 Nights 4:20 
5 Round And Round 1:48 
6 Stick On You 3:31 
7 Rain So Hard 3:52 
8 Lost My Horse 3:08 
9 Saint Martha Blues 4:19 
10 Ain’t No Cowgirl 2:14 
11 Hungry People 5:06 

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