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Truth Is Not Fiction

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Album Review

Otis Taylor can make people nervous. His take on the blues is defiant, angry, aggressive, and confrontational, owing as much to Peter Tosh as Charley Patton. Although he carries the dust of 1920s country blues in his mostly acoustic songs, his railings against social injustices are thoroughly contemporary. Taylor is an often pedantic songwriter, but he pulls it off by sheer bravado and conviction, and like a driver who blows through a stop sign, he's sure about where he's going. Truth Is Not Fiction follows the template of his previous three albums, with no drums (the rhythm comes from the sheer propulsion of Taylor's guitar, banjo, and mandolin playing) and a sort of Appalachian griot approach to things. One of the highlights is the strange Russian blues (complete with cello) of "House of the Crosses," a perfect example of Taylor's mix of rustic themes with cosmopolitan purposes. The full speed ahead rhythm banjo on "Babies Don't Lie" drills into your head like a freight train, and the ante is upped with double-barrelled banjos in both channels on "Shakie's Gone," making Taylor sound at times like Richie Havens on steroids. The album closer, a gut-bucket cover of the Big Joe Williams classic "Baby, Please Don't Go," seems oddly stuck in low gear, but overall Truth Is Not Fiction works well. Given his agenda, Taylor isn't for everyone, but he brings a fresh approach and a welcome shot in the ass to contemporary blues.


Born: 1948 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '70s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Bluesman Otis Taylor never skirted tough subject matter in a career that took him from the Folklore Center in Denver to a brief stay in London, England, to retirement from music in 1977, to being a successful antiques broker and, since 1995, back again to the blues. Taylor's 2001 CD White African (Northern Blues Music), featuring Kenny Passarelli (bass, keyboards) and Eddie Turner (lead guitar), became his most direct and personal statement about the experiences of African-Americans. He addressed...
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Truth Is Not Fiction, Otis Taylor
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