Listen Up: Wednesday, September 07, 2005
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PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Otis Taylor

Below the Fold (Telarc)

By Tom Geddie

Otis Taylor’s mostly traditional-sounding blues vocals move over and through the strong, persistent, layered beats that support each song on Below the Fold. Taylor and the other musicians create these beats just as often with cello and mandolin as with bass and drums. His self-described “trance blues” are not meditative per se but add underlying emotional resonance to the already familiar acoustic blues genre.

In a recent interview, Taylor said that “in order to define truth, one must seek out the edges, and that’s exactly where our music went.” He and his band, he said, “were able to explore different textures and really stretch the music to, y’know, the outer limits. That’s sort of what this music is like for me.” While not exactly reaching the “outer limits” of music, Below the Fold would make an intriguing instrumental c.d., with its combination of acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, bass, cello, drums, fiddle, mandolin, organ, slide guitar, and trumpet.

The W.C. Handy blues award-winning Taylor explores broad issues, such as social and racial inequities, the civil rights struggles, and labor strife, in addition to very personal stories, including fading memory and the problems of his mother’s various romances.

All 10 songs on this c.d. — including “Working for the Pullman Company,” sung by his teen-age daughter Cassie — are strong.

A national instructor for the Blues in the Schools program, the hoarse-voiced Taylor combines tradition with innovation as well as anybody in the genre today. Growing up in Denver around his father’s jazz albums and his mother’s Etta James recordings, Taylor certainly explored music “below the fold.” With its imagery-filled lyrics and oddly beautiful guitar-based foundation, Below the Fold is one of the year’s best and most intimate discs, one that stylistically roams through the Mississippi Delta, the hills of Appalachia, and the streets of New Orleans as we knew them.


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