Otis Taylor,
‘My World is Gone’ (Telarc)

Otis Taylor’s graft of West African- and John Lee Hooker-style drones with stark, post-Civil war Americana on this album is further evidence that he is one of the most imaginative, original blues artists working in America. However, “My World is Gone” feels a bit like an unfinished concept album, the subject being, per the title, the devastation of Native Americans.

With his gruff, vulnerable moan and aching repetitions, Taylor harks back to a time when blues was a stabbing gesture of yearning and pain, not a codified 12-bar form. The spitting acoustic guitar licks and dark, poetic lyrics — “If you send me a golden razor, I’ll cut my hair” — of the title track opener are typically great Taylor; ditto, the naked banjo throb on “Sand Creek Massacre Mourning.”

Guitarist Mato Nanji (founding member of the Native American blues band Indigenous) soars on “Never Been to the Reservation” (though this track, like a couple of others, gets a little jammy) and on the elliptical “Blue Rain in Africa,” about an Indian who sees a sacred white buffalo on a TV nature show and concludes the rain in Africa must be blue.

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But the most infectious song on the album, “Jae Jae Waltz,” isn’t about Indians at all, but rather the pleading of a gentleman courting a newly widowed woman, with Taylor’s banjo flickering over the dance hall. That cut, along with some wicked trumpet by fellow Denverite Ron Miles on “Huckleberry Baby” and a salacious song about a threesome are worth the price of the album.

Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music critic

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