I've long maintained that Otis Taylor is one of the great bluesmen plying his trade in these days and times. Over the course of a career that has spanned almost two decades and resulted in a dozen acclaimed albums, Taylor has never shied away from tackling difficult issues like racism, poverty, social injustice, and man's brutality towards his fellow man. Neither has Taylor taken the traditional course in creating his unique, challenging music, imbuing his "trance blues" with odd instruments like the banjo, or working with stylistically-diverse musicians like Irish blues-rock guitar legend Gary Moore.
On February 12th, 2013 Telarc Records will release My World Is Gone, Taylor's lucky number thirteen, the album a partial collaboration between the visionary bluesman and Native American guitarist Mato Nanji of the band Indigenous. Lyrically, the album explores the struggles of the Native American people. "Mato inspired the entire direction of this album," Taylor states in a press release for the album. "We were talking about history backstage at a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert that Mato had just played, and, in reference to his people, the Native American Nakota Nation, he said 'My world is gone.' The simplicity and honesty of those four words was so heavy, I knew what I had to write about."
"I've written songs about slavery, but here in America that's considered part of the past," Taylor says about My World Is Gone. "What's happened and what's happening to Native Americans is still going on. A lot of people forget that. This is a reminder." Among the new songs from Taylor for the album are the moving title track, which laments the seductive impact of the white man's culture on the Indian way of life, and the powerful "Never Been To The Reservation," which explores the demeaning effect of poverty and alienation on Indian people. "I write songs about people remembering, bearing witness," Taylor says. "I've learned that if you write about things that are important, people will listen. That's one of the reasons why I wrote the songs that I did for My World Is Gone."
Amidst Taylor's usual musical hybrid of blues, jazz, roots-rock, and funk My World Is Gone features the contributions of a number of talented musicians, first and foremost Nanji, who provides guitars on six of the album's 13 songs, and sings alongside Taylor on several tunes. Guitarist Shawn Starski, who has since joined Taylor's touring band, is joined by fiddler Anne Harris, bassist Todd Edmunds, cornet player Ron Miles, and drummer Larry Thompson in backing Taylor, who adds his skilled playing of guitar, banjo, and mandolin to the mix.
One of the most interesting and intelligent artists on the contemporary blues scene, Taylor continues his string of barrier-busting albums with My World Is Gone, expanding the vocabulary of the blues and discarding the traditional twelve-bar and boogie formats in favor of a wider and more diverse vision of the genre. Still, Taylor hasn't received a Blues Music Award nomination for one of his ground-breaking albums in a decade, since 2003's Truth Is Not Fiction. Maybe My World Is Gone will finally get people to sit up and listen...
Photo courtesy Telarc Records