Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

Music Reviews Otis Taylor
Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

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Modern bluesman sidesteps nostalgia

Otis Taylor’s challenge as a bluesman in 2009 is avoiding the treacherous pitfalls of archaism, a feat he usually performs gracefully. His answer on Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs is the same it’s always been: layers. On this new album, the master craftsman melds syncopated rhythms and haunting minor-key sax scales on “Talking About it Blues,” and blends his signature “trance” style—rapid fingerpicking overlaid by simple vocals—with shouts, groans and yells on “Walk on Water.” Sure, there are a few moments of eye-roll inducing sap (the piano solos, dripping with emotive syrup at either end of “I’m not mysterious”) but, overall, this collection of love songs keeps the touchy-feely at arm’s length and sparkles with emotional honesty.

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