Today just about any tradition-based, secular African-American musician is routinely called a blues artist, as if blues were all there is to be said about black folk music. So call Otis Taylor a "bluesman" if you will, but if so, he is far from an ordinary one. He fuses old and new in a striking, even startling, manner, and with such assurance that one cannot help comparing it to Dylan's comparable achievement. Though Truth Is Not Fiction has its own, distinctive sound, it will bring to mind such masterpieces as Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft. Yes, on the evidence of this disc, one can speak of Dylan and Taylor in the same sentence. Though thoroughly contemporary, the arrangements eerily bridge the 19th and 21st Centuries in roughly the way Dylan's recent work has done. Taylor's settings are sparer, however, and his narratives more straightforward. Taylor even manages to breathe new life into the one non-original, the hoary folk-blues "Baby, Please Don't Go" (Big Joe...
Otis Taylor is at the top of a very short list -- current, vibrant African-American musicians expressing themselves through blues. Although Taylor obviously has assimilated classic Delta, rural and urban blues but has no interest in becoming an archivist or revivalist. He is telling his stories, not recycling Robert Johnson's. The same can be said of his music.
If there are "rules" to the blues, Otis Taylor is breaking pretty much all of them. These songs mix electric and acoustic instruments, with no drums. Taylor plays a very percussive banjo on some tracks, and other cuts include background cello that sounds like an early Suzanne Vega disc. Since this CD, Taylor hit upon "Trance Blues" as a way to describe his music. It simultaneously appeals to "jam band" festivals and John Lee Hooker fans. This is the most idiosyncratic blues(-ish) stuff I've heard in ... pretty much ever. Purists will be as unhappy with Taylor as the Newport Festival crowd was with Dylan in...
I heard one of Mr. Taylor's songs at the end of "The Shooter" and was so moved I searched for his music to learn more. As a classic rock and classic country afficianado you might say I'm a little out of my league writing a review on Taylor's work. His music is soulful, deep, blues-y, full of emotion, powerful and thought provoking. I put the CD in my truck (I did say I'm a country fan afterall!) and lose myself in the lyrics as I travel down the road. I'll be buying more Otis Taylor and suggest you do the same.
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