Although Otis Taylor's new record is partly called "Love songs" these aren't the kind of cheesy, romantic love songs you'd give to your mum for her birthday! Although Otis is now in his early 60s he isn't resting on his laurels and delivering `heritage blues', this is very much experimental music rooted in the trance blues of John Lee Hooker but incorporating elements of modern jazz and classical music.
Taylor has said that his music is music that "goes over the edge", in that if you only take your music TO the edge you never know where the edge is. I think that is a very good description and for me some of these songs don't quite work, however I salute Taylor for pushing the boundaries.
He's reunited here with rock-blues guitarist Gary Moore on "Lost my guitar" and also Ron Miles on cornet and modern jazz pianist Jason Moran (who also brings his trio) but he also throws cellos, violins and African hand drums into the mix. (Why not? - if you're following up an all-banjo record then you can do what you like!) Lyrically too he gets away from blues cliches with songs about a ghost calling for his lover to join him beyond the grave, about a woman who leaves her husband for another woman and about a parent's love for their child. His daughter Cassie also makes telling contributions on bass and vocals throughout the CD, especially on the beautiful song "Sunday morning".
A very thoughtful and intelligent record that sets out to push the boundaries but for me doesn't quite pull together all its disparate elements.
on 21 August 2009
Without a doubt one of the most compelling blues performers of the last decade, Otis Taylor's latest album is another strong offering which comes mighty close to the dizzy heights of his defining 2007 work "Definition of A Circle".
Don't be taken in by the title. These are hardly conventional 'love songs'. As on Taylor's previous albums, pain loss and tragedy are never far away and you always sense there's trouble lurking just around the next corner.
The natural successor to the late great John Lee Hooker, Taylor's hypnotic trance blues is often truly captivating, a number of tracks once again delicately embroidered by Ron Miles's haunting cornet. Gary Moore, whose blistering lead guitar work so electrified "Definition of A Circle", also returns on three songs although his performances are more restrained this time.
Effective, if unexpected, is the left-turn into jazz territory courtesy of avant garde pianist Jason Moran who adds additional colour and texture, whilst the rich musical tapestry is completed with African drums and, sparingly, violin and cello.
Clocking in at around 70 minutes in total, the most memorable tracks are the longer pieces on which the band are able to stretch out and display their obvious virtuosity, such as "I'm Not Mysterious" - a typical Otis Taylor story of love between a young black boy and a young white girl, which also provides the album's catchiest riff courtesy of Ron Miles's exuberant cornet - "Young Girl Down The Street" and "Walk On Water".
Taylor's daughter Cassie is again impressive on bass and vocal, most notably on the sultry "Maybe Yeah" a song about the mercenary aspects of love, a typically warped and world-weary view of love's complications. Oh, and there are also songs about murder, a woman leaving her husband for another woman, ghosts and death.
Now THAT'S what I call a Love Songs album.