By Danny R. Phillips
The blues are a strange animal; there are many styles, variations, colors, creeds, speeds, and levels of bluesdom. Though he took 18 years off from music in the 1970s, Otis Taylor has spent a long time perfecting his style known as “trance blues.” While he has made some great albums like Respect The Dead, perfection is not quite there when it comes to his latest release, Contraband.
Contraband is a long piece centering on slaves in Civil War America. Taylor writing an album about escaped slaves in Virginia during the War Between the States is quite fitting and can be seen as a discussion on his own battles for freedom from the record companies that all but suffocated his music in the 1970s.
The album includes pitiful screams and a laugh only Lucifer could love (“The Devil’s Gonna Lie”), driving beats, strange fiddle work, screeching Cornet, haunting low vocals courtesy of Taylor, and flights of electric wonder streaming from Taylor’s guitar. While there are many songs worth hearing on Contraband—”The Romans Had Their Way,” “I Can See You Lying,” “Yell Your Name,” and “Open These Bars”—unfortunately the joys are few.
Unfortunately, Contraband as a whole seems to be self-indulgent and not well planned or perhaps over planned. Some artists just take themselves too seriously and I think, at least in the case of this one album, Taylor is indeed one of them. While Taylor is without a doubt a bluesman and a fine one at that, Contraband is just an OK album. Not one for the ages and not one befitting its subject matter.
Feb 18 – 19 at Dazzle Restraurant & Lounge in Denver, CO
Feb 22 at Blues Alley Jazz in Washington, DC
Feb 23 at Ramshead Tavern in Annapolis, MD
Feb 24 at The Hippodrome in Richmond, VA
Feb 25 at Hiro Ballroom in New York, NY
March 9 at TO BE ANNOUNCED in Italy
March 10 at A.D.M.R. in Brescia, Italy
March 11 at TO BE ANNOUNCED in Italy
March 13 at RTV Slovenija TV Show in Ljubjana, Slovenja
March 14 at Bayerischer Hof Club in Munich, Germany
March 17 at Stary Dom in Domecko, Poland
March 18 at Warsaw Blues Night in Warsaw, Poland