on 28 February 2012
Nobody, but nobody, sounds like Otis Taylor. So much so that he has an entire genre named after his distinctive style. With his eclectic and unusual band back in harness, Taylor's latest eponymous trance blues outing is probably his most consistent set yet.
Opening with the gospel-backed "The Devil's Gonna Lie", Taylor settles quickly into that familiar hypnotic single-chord groove which sets the tone for much of what follows. Alternating between vigorous electric work-outs and more reflective acoustic musings, this is an effective and engaging collection that holds its own alongside Taylor's best work. In general, the up-tempo offerings are the more memorable.
Along with the opening track, "Romans Had Their Way", "Contraband Blues", "Banjo Boogie Blues" and "I Can See You're Lying" are immediate highlights.
Taylor writes with a remarkable economy that can sometimes be mistaken for over-simplicity. On tracks like "Blind Piano Teacher", he reveals disconcertingly little in the way of actual information - "She was a blind piano teacher, he was an older man. And they lived by the sea" - leaving the listener to imagine and fill in the rest. It might not work elsewhere, but in Taylor's hands it somehow does.
A return to form.
Otis Taylor's latest release follows on from his previous records, with his basic trance blues with enigmatic lyrics (often based on historic subjects) which are then enhanced with musical accompaniment including electric blues lead guitar, violin, jazz cornet, pedal steel guitar and gospel choir. This record features even more variety than previous releases with more acoustic songs, with many featuring Otis's banjo. Lead guitarist Jon Paul Johnson seamlessly replaces the late Gary Moore and Anne Harris adds atmospheric fiddle, ditto Chuck Campbell's 'sacred' pedal steel. I'd probably pick "The Romans Had Their Way" as my favourite track - but God knows what it is about! Otis Taylor is a truly individual and unique artist, a real one off... and long may he continue.