Otis Taylor - guitar, banjo, vocals
With Otis Taylor, it’s best to expect the unexpected. While his music, an amalgamation of roots styles in their rawest form, discusses heavyweight issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny and injustice, his personal style is lighthearted. “I’m good at dark, but I’m not a particularly unhappy person,” he says.
Part of Taylor’s appeal is his contrasting character traits. But it is precisely this element of surprise that makes him one of the most compelling artists to emerge in recent years. Guitar Player proclaimed him “arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time,” while Billboard has called him “one of the most innovative, thought-provoking blues artists to emerge in the last 20 years.”
Whether it’s his unique instrumentation (he fancies banjo and cello), or the sudden sound of a female vocal, or a seemingly upbeat optimistic song takes a turn for the forlorn, what remains consistent is poignant storytelling based in truth and history.
Truth and history are at the heart of “Recapturing the Banjo,” Taylor’s fifth release on Telarc. Released in February 2008, the album explores the deepest roots of the banjo an instrument that, despite its common associations with American folk and bluegrass, actually originated in Africa and made its way to the fledgling American colonies in the 1700s via the influx of African slaves. Entertaining and enlightening at the same time, “Recapturing the Banjo” includes performances by some of the most accomplished African-American banjo players on the current roots music scene: Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb’ Mo’ and Don Vappie.