Otis Taylor (from the album Fantasizing About Being Black)
Using history as a map, Otis Taylor shows a path between the past and present with his recent release, Fantasizing About Being Black. The experience of the African American culture, the emotional trauma of being forcibly taken from home and family, the stripping away of personal freedom, and the different levels of racism are the backdrop for the songs. Musically, Otis Taylor weaves his patented Trance Blues into the melody, blending a stark raw delivery with psychedelic stretches of soundscapes. Fantasizing About Being Black watches humanity travel from Africa on slave ships bound for the Mississippi Delta, chro nicling the passages with lyrical poetry that Otis Taylor sees as ‘the history of African Americans is the history of America. After fifteen albums, I’ve taken all of my thoughts about the history of racial injustice and created a musical interpretation for modern times. When I started recording in 2015, I had no idea the topics would become even more relevant. If you close your eyes you can imagine the past, yet see the connections and relevance to what’s happening now’.
Otis Taylor backs the stories with fitting instrumentation, describing the innovative arrangements and the recording ideas as ‘I’ve experimented with banjo and fiddle because slaves on the southern plantations played those instruments and I wanted to include the richness of the early African slave instrument sounds throughout the record’. Time becomes a flowing river with Fantasizing About Being Black moving between old and new in “Banjo Bam Bam” as the story of slaves in shackles is told over a marriage of West African and Chicago rhythms. As modern times take us back to the street in protest, Otis Taylor puts a pounding beat under the ever-present fear in the Civil Rights marches with “Jump Out of Line” as he encourages to fight back against oppression with the rally cry of “Roll Down the Hill”, and feeds the craving for freedom with the acoustics of “D to E Blues”. Otis Taylor welcomes guest musicians into Fantasizing About Being Black with Jerry Douglas’ slide guitar backing a tale of the perils of interracial relationships in “Jump to Mexico” and the lead guitar work of Brandon Neiderauer accenting the telling of the hypocrisy of public officials keeping a black mistress in “Just Want to Live with You”. Otis Taylor has been honing the fusion of raw Blues and expressionism since the 1960’s, continuing to curate and continue in the Trance Blues style that backs his music as he unites the mix in a dream with “Walk on Water”, on the hard edge of “Tripping on This”, and strutting in the high stepping of “Twelve String Mile”.