Fantasizing About Being Black
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/12/2017
It is always with a sense of anticipation that I wait for each new release by Otis Taylor. It is not just that he is one of the best bluesmen working today, but that each of his albums has a theme and individual presence all its own. 2013’s My World Is Gone incorporated Native American rhythms into a blues framework as he explored the plight of America’s original people. 2015’s Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat found him fusing a West Coast psychedelic sound with his well-honed blues. Now, he has changed direction again.
Fantasizing About Being Black is an 11-chapter history lesson of the Afro-American experience. The message is stark and direct, while the music ranges from primitive to sophisticated. He uses violinist Anne Harris to soften the harshness of his approach. Through it all, he remains true to a blues framework and format.
Each song message sets the stage for the one to follow until they meld into a cohesive whole. “Banjo Bam Bam” is a primitive story of slavery. “D To E Blues” is an ode to a father-son relationship played in the Chicago blues style. “Jump Out Of Line” is a look back at the Civil Rights Movement. “Jump To Mexico” explores the difficulties of interracial relationships. “Roll On Down The Hill” is an inspirational call to resist.
Taylor’s playing, both electric and acoustic guitar plus his banjo, gives the music a basic foundation. He tries to remain true to the era with his own instrumental contributions while building modern day connections around them.Fantasizing About Being Black may not be an easy listen, but it is heartfelt and passionate. It is also an important contribution to Afro-American history from a musical perspective, and that fact makes all the difference.