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Otis Taylor - Recapturing The Banjo

Recapturing The Banjo

Otis Taylor

Telarc Records CD 83667

Available from Telarc Intrenational.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gotlieb
(taoboy@cox.net)

When I heard the title of Otis Taylor's new disc I didn't jump for joy even though he had assembled a plethora of bluesmen to play on the project: the likes of Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb' Mo', and Dan Vappie, (his daughter Cassie handles all the bass on the disc) all except Don Vappie are not only outstanding serious bluesmen, but also scholars of the Blues and multi-instrumentalists. I should have had more faith in this outstanding musician who seems to delight in shattering preconceptions, and explodes preconceived illusions, as this disc has given me a great new appreciation of the banjo and its place(s) in the history of the blues.

For a short history of the banjo you read the liner notes which has a wonderful condensation of the how, why, where, and when of this often misunderstood instrument and its relationship to the blues. We associate it mostly with folk or bluegrass music now but it was originally from Africa and was used as a blues instrument in the early days. At one point on this disc we have a chilling version of, Hey Joe, with Otis T. on guitar and vocals, Alvin Youngblood Hart on vocals, lap steel and banjo, Guy Davis on harmonica, and Cassie T. on bass; followed by a very traditional love song Little Liza Jane, with Guy Davis on vocals and banjo and Otis T. on mandolin.

This is a disc that is overflowing with stunning music, mind shattering interpretations of familiar songs that are going to stretch your preconceptions, and some outstanding compositions and arrangements that are going to annihilate many preconceived hypothesis about the banjo and music. He is the thinking persons bluesman and his music is sometimes so startling that it isn't until a bit later that you "get it."

Track List:

  • Ran So Hard the Sun Went Down, written by Otis Taylor
  • Prophet's Mission, written by Alvin Youngblood Hart
  • Absinthe, written by Otis Taylor
  • Live Your Life, written by Otis Taylor
  • Walk Right In, written by Gus Cannon
  • Bow-Legged Charlie, written by Otis Taylor
  • Hey Joe, written by Billy Roberts
  • Little Liza Jane, traditional
  • Five Hundred Roses, written by Otis Taylor
  • Les Ognons, traditional
  • Deep Blue Sea, traditional
  • Simple Mind, written by Otis Taylor
  • Ten Million Slaves, written by Otis Taylor
  • The Way it Goes, written by Keb' Mo' and Lisa Linson

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2008, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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