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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cutting Room Floor: Otis Taylor’s Eclectic Life

US Bluesman Otis Taylor, performed on the stage of the Stravinski hall during the 42nd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland in 2008. (AP)

US Bluesman Otis Taylor, performed on the stage of the Stravinski hall during the 42nd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland in 2008. (AP)

By: Alex Ashlock

There’s always a delicate balancing act when I produce music interviews with Robin. I usually err on the side of hearing more music and that’s the case with our Otis Taylor interview.

“I just want good stories, I don’t care if I sell records,” Taylor told Robin. “I can’t write a pop song, a hit song to save my life. I can’t seem to get it.”

But he can tell stories. His song “Contraband Blues” is about slaves who escaped to the North during the Civil War and were held as contraband by the Union Army. Another song on his new CD tells the tale of a black soldier, who after fighting in World War I, realizes he has never seen Africa. Then there’s the song “I Can Still See You’re Lying,” described in his liner notes as “a bride’s former lover knows she still loves him.”

Love, loss, injustice, are all familiar themes in the songs Otis Taylor writes and performs with his tremendous band, which includes his daughter Cassie on bass.

And the music comes from a man who’s done a lot more than just play the blues. He grew up in Denver, where he immersed himself in the local folklore center, learning the banjo.

His first group was the Butterscotch Fire Department Blues Band. He went to London. He played with Deep Purple singer and guitarist Tommy Bolin. But then in 1977, Otis Taylor took a hiatus from the music business and didn’t come back until the mid 90s.


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