The perennial criticism that “not much happens” in an Otis Taylor song has never rung more hollow. At heart, the trancebluesman is a storyteller, and on this fifteenth album he bites off an odyssey, tracing the African-American experience and drawing some ugly conclusions.
Pointedly armed with the same instruments – banjo, fiddle – as slaves on the southern plantations, Taylor draws us into a nightmarish world where meeting a white woman’s eye means death (Twelve String Mile), where shackled slaves go mad in the sun (Banjo Bam Bam) and civil rights marchers are attacked and abused (Jump Out Of Line). Such is Taylor’s bristling conviction, and the mastery of his sparse instrumentation, that he holds you transfixed, and when Hands On Your Stomach offers the murmured refrain of ‘control your mind’’ you suspect he’s doing exactly that. The only sour note is to emerge into the Trump era and realise there’s no happy ending. As Taylor notes: “I had no idea these topics would become even more relevant.”