It took some cajoling from mentor, star bass player Kenny Passarelli, to get Otis Taylor back onto the live music scene. Starting in the late 1970's, Taylor did not perform in public for around two decades. Since he came back, however, Taylor has been well-received, and his latest offering "Respect The Dead," is a worthy successor to the critically acclaimed "White African."
The album gets off to a fairly frantic start with "Ten Million Slaves." The character in the song reflects in his fallout shelter on the parallels between being confined in a small space through no fault of his own, and the confinement of his ancestors when they were transported from Africa as slaves. Like many of Taylor's songs it is constructed around a simple, but very effective riff.
All of Taylor's songs work on two levels. As well as being compelling music, there is always a message in the lyrics too. Several of the songs offer a social commentary, such as "32nd Time3, which tells the tale of the Freedom Riders who went to the South to help African Americans win the right to vote in the 1960's. Others deal with relationships on a more personal level, such as "Baby So," an impassioned tale of a love triangle which did not have a happy ending. This is one of two tracks where Taylor plays solo, this time with only harp for accompaniment. The other occasion is on "Seven Hours of Light" where he plays guitar whilst describing getting lower than the blues.
For the closing two tracks, Taylor's daughter Cassie provides backing vocals. The excellent "Three Stripes on A Cadillac" tells the tale of how a Mexican girl was killed during staging preparations for a Classic Car race in Mexico in 1999. When two racers were killed during the race, the drivers followed tradition and put a stripe on their car for each of the deceased. The Daniels team, however, added an extra stripe to commemorate the Mexican girl too. This is followed by the closing entreaty to "Just Live Your Life," where Taylor suggests that everyone should do something close to their heart, whether life is short or long.
"Respect The Dead" does not slot neatly into any blues category, but it will appeal to people that appreciate the works of the likes of Alvin Youngblood Hart or UK-based Adrian Byron Burns. Taylor has a great soulful voice, and is a very fine songwriter. Couple that with excellent support from producer Kenny Passarelli (bass and keyboards) and Eddie Turner (guitar), and it all adds up to making "Respect The Dead" a very fine album.
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