Album: Otis Taylor, Recapturing the Banjo (Telarc)

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The Independent Culture

The title of trance-blues historian Otis Taylor's latest album refers to how the banjo, originally an African instrument, has become associated primarily with country music – a hijacking of cultural heritage in need of redress.

Taylor is helped by fellow blues banjoists such as Keb' Mo, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Guy Davis, each of whom demonstrates a different playing style: the latter's claw-hammer method is paired with mandolin on "Little Liza Jane", and "Prophets' Mission" features hypnotic interplay between several banjos.

Electric guitars are used sparsely, weaving Tinariwen-style skeins on "Five Hundred"; but the most compelling track is "Ran So Hard the Sun Went Down", an account of lynch-mob terror delivered in Taylor's haunting monotone: "Looked out the window, what did I see?/Tar and feather comin' after me".

Download this: 'Ran So Hard the Sun Went Down', 'Five Hundred', 'Prophets' Mission'

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