Otis Taylor is not really a main stream artist. Not that he couldn’t be. He brought his band to The Nuggets Celebrity Showroom in Sparks this past weekend and more than satisfied a half filled room. Knowing this musical community the way I do, I know that the room could have been (and should have been) filled with a crowd of music lovers that would have been singing the praises of Otis Taylor and his band on their way out.
psychedelic jam band blues
This was one of those shows that I came to as a clean slate. I had no knowledge or expectations of Mr. Taylor’s music, and I loved it. Otis Taylor is a seasoned (well aged) blues artist who has been through the age of Aquarius and the summer of love, and his music sounds like it. If I had to place a descriptive tag on it (which I feel I need to do sometimes), I would dub it psychedelic jam band blues. Others have dubbed it trance blues.
He started with his original song called Ten Million Slaves, a song that seems to lament the slave trades of early America. His style has a looseness to it that affords for a lot of creativity and improvisation. He followed that with Please Come Home Before It Rains which featured a sing along and some violin solos.
At first glance Otis Taylor looks a little scary. Like a big tough guy that will take you out if he sees fit. After a few minutes you realize he is a gentle giant , with a deadpan sense of humor. He joked between songs that he didn’t want to make anybody jealous, but he got in for free. It wasn’t unusual that between songs he would exchange words with vocal audience members. Nice words!
The band was very laid back and oozes of talent. Everybody played with loads of passion and commitment. Otis has surrounded himself with young talent. Burning up the guitar is child protégé, Taylor Scott. This young man has a style of play that requires him to switch from pick to fingers so quickly that he holds a pick in his lips most of the time. Bass player Todd Edmunds kept a low profile until late in the set when he was unleashed to play a fantastic bass solo. This is a solid bass player. Drummer Larry Thompson was fantastic. Once again, fun was part of the agenda. Lots of humor. He played a drum solo that was fantastic.
I am pretty sure this is the first band I’ve ever seen (not wearing tuxedos) that had two violin players, Miles Burke (?) and Anne Harris. You couldn’t help but notice the very captivating and talented Anne Harris with her muscular arms and legs and dreadlocks dancing and playing the violin masterfully. She had many solos throughout the evening. She was definitely the visual centerpiece of the show. This is not meant to take away from her musical talent. I just can’t avoid the obvious.
His style of playing and writing is hypnotic, to say the least.
His style of playing and writing is hypnotic, to say the least. He can build off of a very simple pattern and take it to great heights of improvisation and creative arranging. They played a 25 minute version of Hey Joe which he modified and calls Hey Joe Opus. His use of echo effects and digital delays gives him a ‘through back’ sound. His music is definitely influenced by the psychedelic days of the 60’s and 70’s.
He has played with such notables as Langhorne Slim, Warren Haynes, Rob Zolezzi, Tommy Bolin, and Bill Nershi of String Cheese Incident.
After the show Otis came out front. I was waiting to tell him how much I enjoyed the show, but two Nugget ‘suits’ were shaking his hand and telling him how the show exceeded all of their expectations. They went on with well deserved praise to the point where I just moved on.
This is a show that just about any music lover would have loved. The fact that the theater was only half full was a shame. It was by no means a barometer of the quality of the show, but just a measure of how some deserving artists can go unnoticed by the masses. This was his last U.S. show for a while. He is currently headed to Europe for a short tour before he comes back for more shows in the United States
There was room for more at this show. YOU could have been there. You can always set your DVR to catch your favorite TV show, but you have to get out of the house for the really good stuff.
See you next time?
For a high definition photo gallery, click here. (there are a lot of good pictures to see in this gallery)
by Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo