OTIS TAYLOR

Recapturing the Banjo

2008-02-17

Otis Taylor's latest is not only great music, it educates and entertains as well. Taylor seeks to "recapture" the banjo for black artists and he gets help from Alvin Youngblood Hart (#2, #7 and #11), Keb Mo (#4 and #14), Guy Davis (#8) and Corey Harris (#5) -- and those songs are simply when they have the lead vocal (they play on many other cuts, too). The excellent liner notes explain that although the banjo was invented by African and African-Americans, whites took over using the instrument and the banjo's appearance in racist minstrel shows turned many blacks away from taking it up as an instrument of choice. Taylor resurrects the banjo's use through some fine numbers, including some you may know, but didn't know the origins ("Walk Right In" and "Hey Joe"). Otis is great as a musician and vocalist; Keb Mo's "Live Your Life" (#4) is a highlight, with Ron Miles doing a cool turn on the cornet. 02/2008 MJVD B-Roots

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