Otis Taylor Sets New Album Release

(conqueroo) Bluesman Otis Taylor will deliver his new album, Contraband, on February 13, 2012.

"When I sing, I just do what I do," Taylor says. "Whatever comes out that's the way I leave it. And if I make a mistake, I leave it in. I like to keep the emotion." Otis Taylor's Contraband is evidence of that. Set for release February 13, 2012, on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group, Taylor's new album finds the artist on familiar thematic terrain: love, social injustices, personal demons and war.

The album takes its title from an article that appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Preservation Magazine about runaway slaves who during the American Civil War escaped to the Union lines at Fort Monroe, Va.. Known as "contraband," they lived in camps where conditions were often worse than life on the plantation.

Otis Taylor's Contraband isn't just speaking to the African American experience, but to the entire human experience. "I'm not really a protest singer or even a very political person," says Taylor. "I just try to tell an interesting story and let people interpret it as they wish."

On Otis Taylor's Contraband, the iconoclastic bluesman is reunited with several longtime collaborators including the supple-toned Ron Miles on cornet; pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell from American Sacred Steel gospel group the Campbell Brothers; djembe player Fara Tolno, a master drummer born in Guinea, West Africa; fiddler Anne Harris from Chicago, Ill.; and the Sheryl Renee Choir. Bass is handled by Taylor's daughter Cassie and Todd Edmunds. Rounding out the band are Jon Paul Johnson on guitar, Brian Juan on organ, and Larry Thompson, former house drummer for Colorado's world-renowned Caribou Ranch recording studio.

The recording took an ominous turn in April 2010 when Taylor became victim of a serious illness and had to undergo major surgery. "I found out that I had a cyst connected to my liver and my spine," he says. "I've always had a bad back, but the cyst was as big as a softball and it was pushing on the nerves in my spine. It was a pretty serious thing. So I went into the studio three days before the operation and recorded seven acoustic songs . . . just in case. If you listen to parts of the album carefully, you can tell I was in excruciating pain."

Otis Taylor's Contraband offers 14 compelling originals. "The Devil's Gonna Lie," a rousing showcase for the entire band, opens the album with Taylor's trademark howls and a demonic laugh. As he writes in the liner notes, "When there is peace, the devil wants war. When there is love, the devil wants hate." On "Yell Your Name," one of the project's original seven acoustic tunes, Taylor sings about a man wants his lover to come back.

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