|Heart wrenching. Powerful. Haunting. And that is just track one of this outstanding
collection of songs from Otis Taylor. Taylor started playing the blues back in 1964, a few years down the road
he got signed on to London's Blue Horizon label where he honed his songwriting skills. He played with several bands
before retiring from music in 1977. Needless to say, I am very happy he came out of retirement in 1995 with the
critically acclaimed release
Blue Eyed Monster followed up by When Negroes Walked the Earth. Now here we are at White African.
This CD is an amazing showcase of Taylor's abilities. His raw, emotive vocals, coupled with his eerie acoustic minimalist guitar work provide the entire album with this powerful texture and feeling. I want to coin the phrase "John Lee Hookeresque", but that is far too simplistic in reference to the unique approach Taylor conjures up on this release. Let's just say they may stomp in the same mud, but they are wearing very different shoes. The tracks are almost hypnotic in their rhythmic nuances, like some kind of blues transcendental experience. The banjo and harp work is also some of the best I have heard in recent times. Nice use of sound effects too. Check out the trains counting out the rhythym on "My Soul's in Louisiana"or the baby crying on the incredible, heartbreaking tune "3 Days and 3 Nights" or the thunderstorm underscoring the guitar on"Rain So Hard".
Each song tells a story and nine times out of ten, it ain't a pretty story with a happy ending. The running theme of the album is "wrong place, wrong time". Included in the liner notes are photos of young men arrested for vagrancy in Kansas in the late 20s/early 30s. The combined effect of each of the tracks is almost overwhelming. Very rarely these days do I find myself so absorbed in the sheer audio fabric of a performer, but when Otis Taylor spins the web, be careful, it is difficult to cut yourself loose.
"Very rarely these days do I find myself so absorbed in the sheer audio fabric of a performer..."