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Album: Otis Taylor

Below The Fold, TELARC

Below The Fold continues this personal approach, Taylor drawing on events and observations to create a song cycle illuminating the African-American experience in the 20th century, from documented outrages such as the Ludlow Massacre of 1914, when the Colorado National Guard shot dead the wives and children of striking miners ("Your Children Sleep Good Tonight"), to his own childhood recollection of learning to refer to his mother's lesbian lover as his "sister".

It's a dramatic blend of the private and the public, with a keen awareness of how both are bound up in politics of one form or another - whether it's the widower in "Hookers In The Street", regretting how his mistreatment of his late wife has resulted in his own estrangement from his children; or the collective insult involved in "Government Lied", telling how Nazis were called to account by the US government for murdering white GIs, but not for the negroes they killed alongside them.

Taylor delivers these blues commentaries in a style he's dubbed "trance blues", with the cyclical, hypnotic figures of his banjo, mandolin or guitar underpinned by fatback funk drums and skirling drones of organ, fiddle and cello, and on some tracks, the desolate trumpet of Ron Miles. It's a dark, gripping style which unites Appalachian country and Delta blues modes with jazz and the music's African forebears.

The presence of blues fiddle creates a direct link with the recently deceased Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. African roots are most strikingly evident on "Hookers In The Street", where his and Futoshi Morioka's electric guitars interlace their riffs in the Tuareg desert-blues manner of Tinariwen. "Right Side Of Heaven" combines the drum-tattoo style of North Mississippi hill-country fife-and-drum bands with frisky harmonica and trumpet.

Innovative yet traditional, Below The Fold demonstrates the blues' apparently endless ability to reconstitute and rejuvenate itself in a way that links old and new, Africa and America, in an intercontinental union of the spirit.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Hookers In The Street', 'Feel Like Lightning', 'Didn't Know Much', 'Right Side Of Heaven', 'Government Lied'