Tuesday , February 27 2024
A mesmerizing CD with an important message about Native American culture and excellent musicianship.

Music Review: Otis Taylor – My World Is Gone

Otis Taylor calls himself a “trance blues” musician. There is a trance-like quality in My World Is Gone, with its strong and steady percussion and the melancholy sound of much of the vocals. The CD is important both musically and as a political and social statement about the plight of Native Americans, not just historically but today as well, as they struggle to adjust to the loss of their cultural heritage.

The CD was inspired by Taylor’s friend, Manto Nanji, a member of the Nakota Nation and singer/guitarist for the band Indigenous. According to an interview Taylor aand Nanji gave on NPR earlier this month, Nanji was visiting Taylor backstage at a Hendrix tribute and, while discussing Native American life, simply stated, “My world is gone.” These words affected Taylor so strongly that he was inspired to write the songs for this CD.

Nanji is very active on the CD, playing guitar on six tracks and sharing vocals on several songs, including the title track. The sadness and depth of emotion on the track sets this theme for the whole recording.

The next song,”Lost My Horse,” contrasts a more cheerful arrangement, in which Taylor and Nanji trade guitar and mandolin licks, with the despair of the lyrics. The booklet, which offers short explanations for each song, points out that a horse was a precious thing in the 1880s.

The most historically-themed song on the CD is “Sand Creek Massacre Mourning,” on which Taylor’s voice sounds ragged and just barely controlled as he sings of the real-life massacre of 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho by U.S. Calvary in 1864. Taylor’s banjo adds to the haunting quality of the song.

“The Wind Comes In” could be in any time in history, as Taylor sings of a man who has lost everything because of drink and has nearly lost hope.

“Blue Rain in Africa” holds out hope that there is still some magic in the world. The song is told from the viewpoint of a Native American who has witnessed the birth of a white buffalo. It is sung by Taylor and Nanji and the blend of their voices is perfect. The next song, “Never Been to the Reservation,” is dark again though. “Coming With Crosses” will chill you as you listen.

Not every song on the CD is so serious, however. “Jae Jae Waltz,” in which a widow is being courted at a dance, is basically the tune of “Oh My Darling Clementine,” with banjo, drums, bass, and cornet giving it a sprightly, folk feel.

“Girlfriend’s House” is about a guy who catches his wife cheating with her girlfriend and wants to join in. It’s a straight blues number. “Sit Across Your Table,” on the other hand, is a rock love song that celebrates the simple joys of marriage. “Gangster and Iztatoz Chauffeur” tells the story of a gangster in love with his chauffeur who can’t be bought by all his money. It is greatly enhanced by the acoustic six-string accompaniment.

“Green Apples” takes us back to the blues, with some more great six-string guitar and a simple message: you do this for me, and I will treat you right.

Overall, this CD is something different, something that makes the listener sit up and pay attention. It has important things to say. It delivers the message with poetry, grace, and really fine singing and musicianship.

About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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