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Otis Taylor
TRUTH IS NOT FICTION
(TELARC)
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Haunting, psychedelic, and darker than the bottom of a grave, Taylorís music remains unique in contemporary blues. And this may be his finest album. Still deploying a sound and a bent in his writing that draws on the roots and history of African-Americans, on the lives of misfits and have-nots, he creates some potent, mystical stuff. "Be My Witness" is a provocative story about a black man who dares to drive through a white neighborhood; "Shakeyís Gone" gives voice to a slave family whoíve lost their breadwinner. A sad and brutal near-ghost-story set to an ominous throb and narrated in Taylorís dry, booming voice, "Kitchen Towel" is about a group of displaced, desperate Native Americans who commit suicide rather than return to the reservation, and about how the pain of their deaths lingers in the air like a spirit 40 years later. "House of the Crosses" uses Taylorís kora-like electric-banjo picking and atmospheric sonics to weave a creepy backdrop for the first-person account of a single-parent child who grows up to be a guard at a prison where one of his charges is his biological father ó who is also his motherís rapist.

But all is not gloomy in Otis Land. Thereís a jaunty take on Big Joe Williamsís "Baby Please Donít Go." And the beautiful, mantra-like "Ros" blends that African picking style with potent slide guitar and lyrics that celebrate both the human fuse of the great Montgomery bus strike and the joy of freedom.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: August 1 - August 7, 2003
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