This is the fourth Otis Taylor album I have reviewed in the past several years. Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (2009), Clovis People Vol. 3 (2010), and Contraband (2012) were all distinctive, as they explored, both musically and lyrically the man’s visions of the world. His stories tend to focus more on the dark side of life, as he explores racism, inner struggles, and heritage. Taylor’s style can best be defined as a cross between roots music and the blues. He has returned with his latest release, My World Is Gone.
The focus of this songwriter’s newest album is the former and present trials and tribulations of Native American culture. His blunt tales and searing music explore the disappearing world of the Native American way of life.
Taylor has a booming baritone voice and is adept on the mandolin, slide guitar, and banjo. His main sidekick on the album is guitarist and vocalist Mato Nanji of the band Indigenous. As a Native American blues player, he provides the foundation and legitimacy for the album. Also on hand are fiddle player Anne Harris (whose plaintive sound is essential to the atmosphere of the music), drummer Larry Thompson, bassist Todd Edmunds, guitarist Shawn Starski, keyboardist Brian Juan, and cornet player Ron Miles.
The title track opens the album and establishes the tone of what will follow. Taylor and Nanji share the vocals on this melancholy tale of temptation and loss. “Lost My Horse” finds Taylor and Nanji trading guitar and mandolin licks. “Never Been to the Reservation” is a bleak tale of life. It is a track where Taylor cuts loose on his guitar and shows why he is one of the better blues musicians working today. “Sit Across Your Table” is about as close to rock and roll as Taylor gets, as Starski’s guitar work and solo bring a different perspective to his sound.
Once in a while his songs offer hope, and so it is with “Jae Jae Waltz,” which is about a search for love.
My World Is Gone continues Taylor’s approach of examining different aspects of the world around him and creating incisive lyrics and music to present his views. It may not always be a comfortable ride but it is an important one and worth taking.