|As he did on his previous releases, the multitalented Otis Taylor has reached
deep into the roots of acoustic blues and hauled them into the daylight, in the form of an album that's hauntingly
beautiful. Everything about White African
is stellar - the execution, the musical interpretation, the pacing, the songs themselves - to the extent that one
can hardly avoid describing it in superlatives. Even background sounds, like the barely heard sound of a child
wailing on "3 Days and 3 Nights," are entirely appropriate and never devolve into cheesiness or silliness.
That song's by far the most heartbreaking on the album; it's so tenderly performed that it's worth the price of the CD alone. Fortunately, it's followed by the harmonica-driven "Round and Round" and the shuffling "Stick On You," which calls to mind early John Lee Hooker. This kind of balance and counterbalance exists all over White African; the very first song, "My Soul's in Louisiana," features a steady beat accented by a repeated pedal tone on the guitar, only to be followed by the much slower "Resurrection Blues." This maintains a nice pace throughout the album, so that the closing "Hungry Blues," about as slow and sad as the title suggests, contains as much energy and tension as the uptempo "Lost My Horse," which has all the drive of a train at full speed.
It's worth mentioning at this point that there are songs on White African that sound as though Taylor dug them out of a dusty Alan Lomax Recording. Not so; all the songs were written by Taylor himself, proof positive that he's got a solid handle on the spirit of the genre. As if all this weren't enough, Taylor plays just about everything except for the kitchen sink, from acoustic guitar to electric banjo, and does it all with expressiveness and aplomb. then again, we shouldn't expect anything less from a man who's played with everyone from Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix and who has been at this for decades. White African is one of the first releases from NorthernBlues, a new Toronto-based label; if it's any indication, we should expect a lot of good music from them.