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June 23, 2009

He Means it, Man

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , , — Alex Rawls @ 7:35 am


Typically, I’m suspicious of the humorless and literal. More often that not, the combination leads to well-meant but obvious art. In the liner notes to Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs, hypno-bluesman Otis Taylor explains that “Lost My Guitar” is about losing a guitar, and that “Mama’s Best Friend” is about mama leaving dad for another woman – something you’d have to be clod to miss in the lyrics. And if there’s even a grin in here anywhere, I can’t find it.

But like most of Taylor’s work, I’m completely taken by the album. He repeats the few lines that constitute the lyrics to his songs as if he is considering what they mean, listening to his own words for resonances he hadn’t thought about. The simple slowly becomes profound, and the trance-oriented arrangements do their job. After the eight-minute “Walk on Water,” every song seems to go on for ever, but not in a tedious sense. More accurately, they’re songs you get lost in to such a degree that you can’t be sure if you’ve been listening to them for three, five or 20 minutes.

On this album, he works with an expanded musical palate including British blues/metal guitarist Gary Moore, pianist Jason Moran and cornetist Ron Miles along with various strings, percussionists and frequently his daughter Cassie on bass and/or vocals. While his guitar establishes a repeated, circular figure, the other instruments scurry around, reinforcing it at one point, then trying to break free of its orbit at others. As a result, there’s a bristling energy and musical adventurousness that serves as an undercurrent beneath Taylor’s songs of quiet struggles for dignity. And his own intensity makes it work, sense of humor or no. Means it, Man digg:He Means it, Man spurl:He Means it, Man wists:He Means it, Man simpy:He Means it, Man newsvine:He Means it, Man blinklist:He Means it, Man furl:He Means it, Man reddit:He Means it, Man fark:He Means it, Man blogmarks:He Means it, Man Y!:He Means it, Man smarking:He Means it, Man magnolia:He Means it, Man segnalo:He Means it, Man gifttagging:He Means it, Man