SOUNDTRACK: OTIS TAYLOR-Tiny Desk Concert #120 (April 13, 2011).
Otis Taylor is a big, burly, bearded man who plays the banjo. His band consists of fiddle, drums and electric guitar and bass.
The songs are bluesy without being like the blues, and they are folky without really being like folk music. And the way he plays the banjo is unlike any typical banjo song I’d heard before.
The blurb explains what makes his songs sound so different: He plays a style of music he calls trance blues.
Taylor’s music is trance-inducing, and he achieves that effect by playing songs that are modal: Sometimes, they sit on one chord for the entire song. Taylor says that by doing that, by eliminating chord changes, you also eliminate reference points, so songs can run as long as 10 or even 15 minutes in length.
And it’s true. The basic melody of he first song, “Ten Million Slaves” (which is only 4 minutes) stays the same throughout the song. It’s the fiddle (played by Anne Harris) that throws the new notes and riffs into the song that keep it so interesting,
He does throw in a simple but affecting solo at the end of “Ten Million Slaves” but it’s more fun to watch him rock out the end of the song. That song also appeared in Public Enemies, the Michael Mann movie.
He calls his music trance blues music, came from Mali and Mississippi Hill Country.
The main riff of “Ran So Hard The Sun Went Down” is instantly familiar and a little dark. I love the middle jam section where it just seems to gets bigger and bigger (I guess that’s the trance).
For the third song, “Talking About It Blues,” Taylor switches to acoustic guitar. This is a fairly simple blues song, but I love the guitar riff that punctuates the verses. The verse is simple enough “my daddy cut down a tree, make a guitar for me.” This song features a lengthy solo by J.P. Johnson.
The drums (by Larry Thompson “Bryant Gumball of the drummers,”) and bass (by new bassist Todd Edmunds) are really simple but they sound great and really punctuate the song.
It’s a short song that segues into the final song, “Think I Won’t” which has a heavy five note riff to open with. I love that it takes him forver to end this song. Saying one more time even though they do more than one more time.
I don’t really like blues songs that much. But this band is really tight and the addition of the fiddle really makes these songs stand out. Plus after those cool droning blues songs I was hooked.
[READ: December 15, 2015] Primates
I had been planning to post magazine stories this week. Then I learned that it is First Second’s ten-year anniversary and they are trying to promote it with the cool hashtag #10yearsof01. Since I’ve read a bunch of First Second books in the last couple of months, I’m going to give them a deserved shout out by posting a few in a row and including that hashtag.
This is a non-fiction graphic novel from First Second and it is outstanding. In a wonderfully kid-friendly style, it talks about the incredible work done by Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. And the man behind their success, Leonard Leakey.
The story opens on Jane Goodall. After visiting a friend in Kenya, she spoke to Dr Leakey (who tells of his childhood growing up in Kenya). Through their meeting, Leakey gained funding and sent Goodall to Gombe to study chimpanzees in 1957. She soon discovered them using tools and eating meat. Her work caused them to, as the book puts it, “redefine tools, redefine Man or accept chimpanzees as human.”
Then she went further and learned so much more about chimpanzees, using techniques that were not exactly scientifically approved (sifting through dung, setting up places for them to eat) but wound up being amazingly effective.
Jane married Hugo, her photographer and then they were visited by Dian Fossey. Continue Reading »