Fantasizing About Being Black
Trance Blues Festival
The Blues Gets Political Again.
I’m a white man from a 100% white coal-mining village in NE England and discovered The Blues via a bunch of Middle-Class white boys from the South of England in the late 1960’s and early 70’s.
I’ve had a pretty good life…..yet……the Blues speaks to my Soul every day of the year in ways most people could never understand.
Born in 1948 Otis Taylor first got involved with the music scene in the 60’s through to 1977, when he became disillusioned and gave it all up making a living in the Art and Antiques world. Things changed again in the early 90’s when he re-discovered his passion and began ‘sitting in’ around the Boulder area; subsequently releasing his debut album in 1995 aged 47 and going on to win numerous Awards over the ensuing years!
22 years later he has now released 14 albums each containing at least a thread of socio-political injustices prior to FANTASIZING ABOUT BEING BLACK, his most passionate conception yet.
On the opening song Twelve String Mile, Taylor’s gruff voice and some delicate lap steel from Jerry Douglas, a bass that sounds like a beating heart and some sweet cornet from Ron Miles mask a horrid tale of what it must have been like to be a black man in the Deep South during the 1930’s.
I was hooked straight away.
This immediately followed by an interracial love story; told over a backing track worthy of Blue Note in the mid 60’s. Heard on headphones, as I did last night your stomach will be in knots by the time the song finishes.
Taylor describes his ‘sound’ as ‘Trance Blues’ and named his record label thus; and it’s as good a way as any to describe the sound he creates on songs like D to E Blues and the tale of a Spirit telling an enslaved woman ‘her mind cannot be controlled.’ Phew; really powerful stuff!
While never a history lesson; Otis Taylor moves back and forth through the decades to tell his stories; and what stories they are; each rooted in the past but sadly too many are still relevant today, judging by the news reports from the USA.
Strangely (for me anyway) interracial relationships feature prominently here, with Tripping on This using the type of ‘low, down dirty Blues’ I used to associate with Johnny Winter to tell the tale of a man re-discovering his bi-racial son whom he gave up for adoption 48 years previously; but Just Want to Live With You is a beautiful slice of Country Blues and all the better for it.
On an album of pure earthly delights I keep coming back to two songs; Jump Jelly Belly, about the danger Afro-American soldiers faced in WWII when exchanging cargo on the high seas …..’Trance Blues’ at it’s finest and Roll Down The Hill, primarily about redemption and a song that resonates with me, myself and I, and will you too.
If you don’t already know Otis Taylor; think John Lee Hooker, Richie P Havens and/or Curtis Mayfield in their absolute prime; then add a guitarist as good as Clapton or Peter Green into the mix and you will be in the right ball-park.
Released 17th February 2017