Otis Taylor’s fifth recording, “Double V,” is razor-sharp, stripped-down blues brimming with conviction and conscience. Distilling outrage over social injustices into poignant refrains, Taylor sings in angry rasps and whispers of suffering. His blues hits like moonshine; it’s hard not to shudder.
As on his past releases, Taylor draws on historical moments and recent trends, such as the treatment of Native Americans (“Took Their Land”), the poverty of elderly people (“Plastic Spoon”) or the legacy of slavery (“Sounds of Attica”), but brings them up close and focused. The backing remains sparse, with only touches of high, lonesome trumpet, electric mandolin, African-like guitar, and — strangest of all — a cello quartet. Far from any classical pretense, though, the cellos play with atonal, jagged edges that accent Taylor’s ferocity. He also knows how to break up the intensity with moments of humor, as in the refrain of “Reindeer Meat” (“I ain’t gonna eat no reindeer meat/specially on Christmas Day”).
“Double V” shows again that Taylor is one of the most unique and refreshing voices in blues.
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