Blues Blast Magazine – Otis Taylor – Clovis People Vol. 3
Otis Taylor’s latest foray into what somebody has dubbed “trance blues” continues his atmospheric journeys by observing and commenting on life’s less savory aspects, harkening back to the raw, tormented blues of the early originators. Not music for mere entertainment purposes, more for introspection and soul searching. At times his goal is accomplished and at others it feels like you’re listening to uncompleted fragments of songs. Case in point: “Lee And Arnez”. Otis keeps repeating “Lee and Arnez and the boxer dog, that was then and this is now. There is no color, there is no difference. Tell your children, they might not listen. So just whisper in their ears.” Ok , something about racial prejudice. The delivery sounds poignant, but even a hint of a story is never told.
The Clovis people of the cd title refers to the prehistoric Native American culture considered to be the first human inhabitants of North and South America. Otis Taylor: “I went back to my musical past with these songs. That’s why I called it Volume 3. There really is no Volume 1 or 2. My music goes back about ten years, but there’s something about reaching back to an earlier time and revisiting stories of the past from a new perspective that I find compelling.”
A new version of “Rain So Hard” which previously appeared on ‘White African’ opens the recording with Otis’ acoustic guitar conjouring up a quasi raga with cornet and theramin. The cornet creeps in sounding like a buzzin’ fly, then morphs to create a alt jazz backdrop. I guess this record can be seen as Taylor’s cornet period as Ron Miles’ playing is featured all over. Another prominent element is the electric guitar accents of British blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore, supplying hard riffs or subtle accents as needed. On “Lee And Arnez” he juts in and out over the acoustic guitar and violin, reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’ more poignant moments. Moore closes out the song with jagged shards over the bubbling acoustic, organ and violin. “Past Times” is a lament of one’s impending death, underpinned with cornet and what could be Chuck Campbell’s pedal steel or a theramin whining, as I received an advance copy without track by track listing. Campell of the Campbell Brothers sacred steel band propels “Hands On Your Stomach” with his slithering pedal steel playing. Otis and band get into a bit of a groove on “Harry Turn The Music Up”, his recounting of his early musical upbringing at the Denver Folklore Center, as theramin intertwines with pedal steel.
If you are a fan of Otis’ earlier work, you’ll find much to like here. New listeners will surely find touch points if they give it a chance. I’m not well versed in his music, although I own ‘White African’ which works better for me, as I find it a more memorable. His contributions to the soundtrack of ‘Public Enemies’ enhanced the mood. The unusual mix of instruments used in his music often renders the desired haunting quality found in his work. Otis’ music is an aquired taste. It can be a nice alternative to much of the guitar slingers out there.
Reviewer Greg ‘Bluesdog’ Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta.