Academic journal article Notes

Otis Taylor

Academic journal article Notes

Otis Taylor

Article excerpt

Otis Taylor. Recapturing the Banjo. Telarc CD-83667, 2008.

The first thought that comes to upon encountering this strange and fascinating recording is prompted by the cover photo. How, one wonders, can four men holding banjos look so angry and suspicious? The answer is suggested by the album's title and amplified in the liner notes by folk-music scholar and banjoist Dick Weissman, who uses that forum somewhat testily to make the case for the banjo's African origins. Otis Taylor is a blues musician, and he is here joined by colleagues Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb' Mo', and Don Vappie, along with his bassist daughter Cassie. All take turns playing four and five-string banjos in combination with other instruments, demonstrating ways that the banjo has been and can be incorporated into African American musical styles both old and new. On "Ran So Hard the Sun Went Down," Taylor applies new lyrics about a man on the run from the Ku Klux Klan to a very old melody, the venerable fiddle tune "Cluck Old Hen" (a very subtle and elegant musical pun). …

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