|Since returning from his self-imposed exile from the music business in 1995, Denver-based
blues artist Otis Taylor has released two critically-acclaimed albums, Blue Eyed
Monster and last year's When Negroes Walked the
While both albums earned the respect and admiration of his peers and considerable expanded his fan base, neither have taken his career to the next level.
His latest project, White African, could be the album that does it for him.
Taylor's first album for the newly created Canadian label NorthernBlues Music, White African is a superb effort on all accounts, from the calibre of Taylor's original material and the performances delivered by Taylor and bandmates Eddie Turner (lead guitar) and Kenny Passarelli (base, keyboards) to the richness of Passarelli's production.
The 52-year-old artist, a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica and packs a big, deep voice has suggested that writing lyrics is not his forte, that in fact he would like to someday reduce his songs to a single word.
That would be a mistake.
Taylor is, in fact, a fine storyteller whose songs paint vivid pictures about the life experiences of some members of the black community, including his great-grandfather who was not only lynched but physically torn apart by a white mob in Louisiana which then scattered the body parts around town.
Many of the themes on White African are dark, addressing issue like poverty, alcoholism, racism, and injustice. It can be a little overwhelming in places, but that's the direction Taylor chose to go and he would not be deterred.
While such themes dominate the album there are some upbeat moments here as well. Taylor does have a sense of humor and put it into good use on tracks like Ain't No Cowgirl.
Musically, there are excellent performances here, in particular Taylor's blues banjo picking on Momma Don't You Do It and his harmonica work on Round and Round.
If this album doesn't make is to the blues top 10 for 2001 I'd be very surprised. The album has already earned glowing reviews from such industry tabs as Real Blues, Blues Access, Blues & Rhythm, Thirsty Ear Magazine, and Blues Rag.