Otis Taylor CD

My World Is GoneOtis Taylor Gone res

(Telarc/Select)

If Deadwood (television’s peerless western) could sing it would sound like this. You can hear blood, dust and whisky all rasping in this music, alongside hearts as big as houses, turbulent lives and the looming proximity of death. Anyone who thought the blues was now a musical form condemned to recycle itself should listen to Otis Taylor. You’ll soon hear the magnitude of your error.

This time he has penned a series of elegies about the world that native Americans have lost. He transports himself back to the nineteenth century and creates characters, idylls and crises, whether fictional or historical. Those who decry a “black armband view of history” will not begin to understand how this process is about healing rather than division. But Taylor understands this so well that he can inject sparks of humour and ribaldry (in the blues’ best tradition) into the prevailing open-wound rawness of the sonic world.

His voice is gruff enough to veil the emotions, but is edged with a howl. His sparse banjo, guitar and mandolin are joined by an even sparser rhythm section, and decorated with glistening lead guitar (Mato Nanji) or trumpet (Ron Miles). The end result is often relentless, sometimes epic – almost ritualistic – in feel and deeply affecting. This, the sound of twenty-first century blues, is not to be denied.