FAME Review: Otis Taylor - Contraband
Otis Taylor - Contraband


Otis Taylor

Telarc Records - TEL33188-02

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Bob Gottlieb

This most inventive and haunting of artists (I truly hesitate to call him a Bluesman) continues his foray into the roots of the blues from all divergent angles, and with one of his most stellar of groups. He handles the vocals and guitar, banjo and electric banjo; his daughter Cassie Taylor on bass, mostly, but sometimes she relinquishes the bass to Todd Edmunds, and at times the two play together; Larry Thompson on drums, dijembe player Fara Tolino, Jon Paul Johnson playing lead guitar, Ron Miles on cornet, fiddler Anne Harris, the Sheryl Renee Choir and some of the most wicked pedal steel you will hear by Chuck Campbell from The Campbell Brothers (a Sacred Steel gospel group something you just should investigate). He has put forth this most innovative of discs, incorporating more horns and African instruments placed just so on this collection of 14 well-crafted songs that he wrote. In addition to writing all the songs he also did all the arranging and produced the disc. He is never afraid to experiment, tinker, or completely destroy the boundaries of traditional blues.

This disc was partially recorded when Taylor was about to go to the hospital for a serious operation and I guess it was going to be touch and go, so he went into the studio and recorded seven of the songs acoustically…just in the event. The disc opens with The Devil's Gonna Lie, which is a great up-tempo number that features both his howls and moans as well as the hypnotic, trance like beat he is known for, punctuated by his quite demonic laugh, that is fully capable of making the hairs stand on end. Quite a bit of his playing is done on his electric banjo which has a very different sound that punctuates the just off the surface mayhem that seems to be brewing. On this disc he is secure enough with both what he has to say and the message in his songs that he often steps back and lets the other instruments stretch out. That leaves plenty of room for solos by Chuck Campbell, and Fara Tolno just to mention a couple that stood out, and a fantastic use of the two basses playing together on the Blind Piano Teacher, a beautiful piece leading to the banjo rave-up of Banjo Boogie Blues that lets him and the Sheryl Renee Choir cut loose. Another innovative and iconoclastic disc from this exceptional musician.

Track List:

  • The Devil's Gonna Lie
  • Yell Your Name
  • Look To the Side
  • Romans Had Their Way
  • Blind Piano Teacher
  • Banjo Boogie Blues
  • 2 or 3 Times
  • Contraband Blues
  • Lay On My Delta Bed
  • Your 10 Dollar Bill
  • Open These Bars
  • Yellow Car, Yellow Dog
  • Never Been To Africa
  • I Can See You're Lying
All songs by Otis Taylor

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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