Otis Taylor | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Otis Taylor

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Boulder-based singer-songwriter Otis Taylor considers himself a bluesman, but few of his tunes adhere to standard blues changes, and his lyrics go well beyond stock themes of erotic infatuation and betrayal. He draws on both black and white rural American folk traditions and uses call-and-response motifs that nod to the African roots of jazz and blues. He sings these groove-based songs with taut emotion that gives urgency to the misty, dreamlike sound he and his bandmates create on a variety of stringed instruments. On his latest disc, this year's Below the Fold (Telarc), he does away with many of the embellishments that characterized his previous album, 2004's Double V, instead creating texture by interweaving drums and a lone bebop-flavored trumpet with his own propulsive playing on guitar, banjo, and mandolin. His lyrics remain dark, but he sounds a bit more optimistic this time out; when he describes folks who can't fight anymore--the dying old man in "Boy Plays Mandolin," the slain black World War II soldiers in "Government Lied," the broken-down libertine in "Hookers in the Street"--he grants them a hard-won dignity. The Cash Box Kings open. Sat 8/27, 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, 312-427-0333, $15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Stacy Moore.

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