Otis Taylor isn't defined by any single category. A musical alchemist and a true innovator, Taylor has never been afraid to experiment beyond the blues tradition. He's a master craftsman who has created his own signature "trance blues" style by melding haunting guitar and banjo work, syncopated rhythms and a combination of gruff vocals, shouts and yells with raw passion. Otis Taylor's Contraband offers 14 compelling originals. "The Devil's Gonna Lie," a rousing showcase for the entire band, opens the album with Taylor's trademark howls and a demonic laugh. As he writes in the liner notes, "When there is peace, the devil wants war. When there is love, the devil wants hate." On "Yell Your Name," one of the project's original seven acoustic tunes, Taylor sings about a man wants his lover to come back.
"When I sing, I just do what I do," Taylor says. "Whatever comes out - that's the way I leave it. And if I make a mistake, I leave it in. I like to keep the emotion." Otis Taylor's Contraband is evidence of that. The subject matter on Taylor's new album is familiar terrain as he sings of love, social injustices, personal demons and war. The album takes its title from an article that appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Preservation Magazine about runaway slaves who during the American Civil War escaped to the Union lines at Fort Monroe, VA. Known as "contraband," they lived in camps where conditions were often worse than life on the plantation.
Otis Taylor's Contraband isn't just speaking to the African American experience, but to the entire human experience. "I'm not really a protest singer or even a very political person," says Taylor. "I just try to tell an interesting story and let people interpret it as they wish." The iconoclastic bluesman is reunited with several longtime collaborators including the supple-toned Ron Miles on cornet, pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell from American Sacred Steel gospel group The Campbell Brothers, djembe player Fara Tolno, a master drummer born in Guinea, West Africa, fiddler Anne Harris from Chicago, IL and the Sheryl Renee Choir. Bass is handled by Taylor's daughter Cassie and Todd Edmunds. Rounding out the band are Jon Paul Johnson on guitar, Brian Juan on organ, and Larry Thompson, former house drummer for Colorado's world-renowned Caribou Ranch recording studio.