In his new CD "White African," (Northern Blues Music, 2001) the folk/blues singer Otis Taylor reduces the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ to human terms: he makes Christianity's watershed seem like just one more act of terrorism against a brother. Taylor has a dream in which he believes that he is Jesus himself, but this Jesus is weighted down with mortal concerns: "Don't wanna be crucified," Taylor's voice echoes in "Resurrection Blues" as if coming up from the depths of a well and backed by a hornet's nest of guitars. "Don't want thorns on my head/Don't want…walk among the dead. I don't want be…Jeeesus," he whispers.
It turns out that Taylor's entire CD is an exorcism of some of the most painful experiences that a mortal can have, and for Mr. Taylor, many of them are personal: the lynching of Taylor's great-grandfather, the murder of his uncle are subjects for songs. There are stories of unspeakable brutality: a black man in the '30's is executed for a murder he did not commit, a father cannot pay the doctor and so sits powerless for three days and nights, waiting for his child to die: "I went home to my cardboard box/And laid my little girl down." Even love is a painful subject on "White African" - Taylor sings about cheating, faithless beings making the kind of love that can leave you crazy.
Mr. Taylor resides in Boulder, and teaches in the Blues in the Schools program, sponsored by the National Blues Foundation. Taylor plays guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and harmonica. A veteran of the industry, he formed the Otis Taylor Blues Band in London in the '60's. "White African" may be one of this year's most significant records, albeit a minimalist effort with Taylor's vocals straining against a lean background of ghostly acoustic and electric guitars. Taken altogether, it is the work of a master. But while the CD is musically engaging, it is music that will hurt most ears, for it is also the dark soundtrack of dismay.
**** ˝ (four and a half stars) goes with: John Lee Hooker, Richie Havens
NorthernBlues Music Inc.
67 Mowat Ave, Suite 233
Toronto Ontario Canada M6K 3E3
Web : www.northernblues.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave Good, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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