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OTIS TAYLOR
BELOW THE FOLD
Telarc
Stars graphics

Colorado-based blues innovator Otis Taylor has written some of the best — and the bleakest — tunes the genre has heard in more than a decade. But his sixth album is a surprisingly joyful affair, with songs about friendship and spiritual contentment ("Right Side of Heaven") and love ("Went to Hermes") alongside laments like "Boy Plays Mandolin," where Taylor assumes the role of an old afflicted man who doesn’t remember his father. There’s also the nursery-rhyme-like "Working for the Pullman Company," a chant he wrote when he was a child and his father would spend days away from home in railroad service; here it’s sweetly sung by his teenage daughter Cassie, who also plays bass on the disc. For a less conventional autobiographical twist, there’s "Mama’s Got a Friend," a true tale based on the arrival of his mother’s lesbian lover in the Taylor home when he was a boy. His trademark arrangements — static modal music colored by banjo tunings and open guitar tunings and a bit of digital delay — remain as mesmerizing as ever, embracing a trance-music æsthetic similar at its compositional roots to North Mississippi blues. What’s new to his group this time around is the addition of drums, which add even more propulsion to his already driving, inventive sound.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: January 13 - 19, 2006
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