Contraband (Telarc, 2012)
American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Otis Taylor continues his musical explorations on his latest recording. Although his music is deeply rooted in the blues, Taylor is known for crossing boundaries. This time he presents Contraband, an album that features a wide range of influences, including acoustic and electric blues, sacred steel, rock, soul, West African rhythms and Gospel.
Taylor’s new set of songs talk about of love, social inequality, personal anxieties and war. Contraband takes its title from an article that appeared in Preservation Magazine about escaped slaves who during the American Civil War managed to get to the Union lines at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Known as “contraband,” the runaway slaves lived in camps where conditions were often poorer than life on the plantation. “I’m not really a protest singer or even a very political person,” says Taylor. “I just try to tell an interesting story and let people interpret it as they wish.”
Contraband features several musical friends, including Ron Miles on cornet, pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell, jembe player Fara Tolno, fiddler Anne Harris and the Sheryl Renee Choir. Taylor’s daughter Cassie and Todd Edmunds play bass. Taylor’s band includes Jon Paul Johnson on guitar, Brian Juan on organ, and Larry Thompson on drums.
“When I sing, I just do what I do,” Taylor says. “Whatever comes out – that’s the way I leave it. And if I make a mistake, I leave it in. I like to keep the emotion.”
Contraband is an impassioned album by one of the great blues innovators of our time.