- Artist: Otis Taylor
- Title: White African
- Released: 2001
- Format: CD
- Genre: Blues
- Beverage of Choice: Mango Margarita
Speaking directly to the issues of the past, Otis Taylor‘s music seems to be endlessly and despairingly relevant to our present. I was first made aware of his distinctive and dark blues brilliance through this album that remains on high rotation in my library due to it’s tone, authenticity and compelling directness.
White African describes in dark and vivid detail the reality of being poor and on the fringes in America. Without specifically calling out racial issues (except in the album title) the music and lyrics deliver a message with a much higher emotional and intellectual impact than someone yelling on TV. Taylor speaks for the dead, the generations past and present, and does so without pointing fingers or histrionics.
OK, I guess you’re going to listen to “3 Days and 3 Nights” and challenge me on the last statement; we can possibly at least agree that the track is highly effective in conveying a sense of helplessness and underlying fury. Every time I hear the song it’s heart-wrenching and sometimes, I must admit, I skip it if I’m feeling a little wrung out or frazzled by events of the day. Listen to this tone poem at least once and admire the performance and artistry of the man; after that, if it doesn’t work for you, I understand. Having just listened to it again for this review, my emotions are a little raw so please forgive any lack of professional distance in this post.
The music on this album is understated and mostly takes a back seat to the vocals and stories that Taylor tells but listen to the wonderful harmonica on “Round and Round“, eloquent acoustic and electric guitars on “Stick on You” and “Rain So Hard“, banjo on “Lost My Horse” and ethereal keys on “Saint Martha Blues” and you’ll quickly understand that the man is a musician of the highest order with a creative drive and focus that makes him stand out in the somewhat cluttered blues scene. With John Lee Hooker as a major influence, you can expect nothing but excellence across Taylor’s entire discography.
Also check out his most recent release , 2017’s Fantasizing About Being Black for an up-to-date take on race relations in America. Nothing speaks to the heart on any issue better than music, so I’m keeping this post short (and hopefully sweet) to free up more of your time to dig into Otis Taylor’s specific brand of genius.