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Published: 2003/07/28
by Pat Buzby

Truth Is Not Fiction – Otis Taylor

Telarc 83587

All too often, modern-day blues amounts to predictable, unthreatening
background music for a yuppie's night out. Otis Taylor's music is an equal
and opposite reaction to this sanitizing process. His songs recall the
mysterious and brooding side of the earliest blues, reminding the listener
of the genre's roots in the time of slavery.

The disc's title hints at the starkness of Taylor's style. For instance,
his liner comments reveal that "Be My Witness" is about a 1930s black man
daring to drive through a white neighborhood, but the lyrics offer only a
few lines, placing the character on the edge of his action rather than
revealing anything about the outcome. This is typical of Taylor's
originals, most of which concern wounded characters, dealing with either
racism or simpler personal misfortunes. His music offers little relief,
generally stopping at one or two-chord patterns rather than offering the
full 12-bar cycle of the conventional blues. The disc-closing cover of
"Baby Please Don't Go" offers a bit of relief, but otherwise this is dark

Producer Kenny Passarelli (also a bassist of Joe Walsh/Elton John fame) does
a somewhat Daniel Lanois-esque job of creating an aural landscape for
Taylor's songs. Eddie Turner's stinging lead guitar provides some
distraction on a few cuts, but otherwise there is little other than driving,
minimalist bass parts and some cello to underpin Taylor's repetitive
patterns on guitar, mandolin or banjo.

The world that Taylor evokes is a difficult place to live, but it undeniably
existed in full force for many decades and has not fully vanished. Truth
Is Not Fiction reminds us of this.

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