September 17, 2009

Otis Taylor – Pentatonic Wars And Love Songs

I’ve heard many a musician talk about the space that needs to be left in a composition. I’ve always thought of that in terms of notes, the notes that one doesn’t play. But Otis Taylor makes songs with space between the singing…lots of space. And man-oh-man does it work.

Overall, Taylor as well as his daughter, Cassie, are about the emotional impact of the song. Taylor’s singing and lyrical style is very repetitive. He labels it call and response, call it what you like but I find it fascinating that he can say so little in a song, and have it mean so much.

Taylor crafts his songs with space for playing too, and it’s always appropriate to the feeling of the song. He builds his songs in a progressive manner, adding layers, but always leaving that space for the musicians to shine. Somehow Taylor manages to let them show off without screwing up the songs.

Taylor’s use of the acoustic guitar is great. He doesn't just play the notes, he pounds them out in a percussive way that is rarely heard in a band setting. All too often acoustic guitars are lost in the mix once all the instruments kick, but Taylor keeps it sharp and up front, setting the pace for the song.

It’s hard to really label this as a blues CD, it’s a big, messy soup of styles. One minute it’s modern blues, then his daughter sings a plaintive ballad. Next is a song with some tasty licks played on a nylon stringed guitar. Trance banjo followed by a jazz piece that seems to be equal parts Miles Davis, Nik Bärtsch and of course Otis Taylor. And all of this is a good thing. So if you haven’t discovered Otis Taylor yet, this is a good place to start.

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