W.C. Handy award winner, Otis Taylor, is preparing for the release of his fifth recording. His Telarc debut, Truth Is Not Fiction, marks a significant shift in style from a minimalist, acoustic-driven approach as heard on his previous discs to the electric, sometimes psychedelic sounds of the new material which Taylor describes as "trance-blues." He explains, "For me, in order to define truth, one must seek out the edges and that's exactly where our music went. By incorporating unusual instrumentation like cello, electric banjo, violin and mandolin, we were able to explore different textures and really stretch the music to, you know, the outer limits. That's sort of what this music is like for me."
A topical artist who draws heavily from personal experiences, Taylor delves into subjects like civil rights ("Rosa, Rosa"), the will to live ("Be My Frankenstein"), and rape ("House of the Crosses"). Throughout the 11 songs, razor-sharp lyrics are punctuated by haunting vocals. In addition, Taylor plays banjo, mandolin, harmonica and a range of guitars. Tracks are rounded out by the swirling riffs of lead guitarist Eddie Turner, the evocative cello of Ben Sollee and the bottom-line of bassist Kenny Passarelli which is propulsive enough for the group to eschew drums of any kind. Passarelli also produced the disc as he had done with Taylor's last two efforts, White African (2001) and Respect The Dead (2002). White earned Taylor four W.C. Handy nominations and the award for "Best New Artist Debut." This year, Taylor is up for two Handys in the categories of "Best Acoustic Artist" and "Contemporary Blues Album."
Taylor has been making his mark in the music world since the 1960s when he took up his first instrument, the banjo, at the Denver Folklore Center. He bowed out of the recording business in 1977 and returned in the mid-90's. During this time he became an accomplished antiques dealer and coached a professional bicycle team. Now, in addition to touring and recording, Taylor is an instructor for Blues in the Schools, a program which he says allows him to share the heritage and history of blues music and to ensure that it will continue in future generations.