Whether he's writing about a death in a slave family (the Stephen Foster-like banjo tune "Shakie's Gone"), being in love with someone who doesn't love you (the blues weeper "Comb Your Brown Hair"), or the last hours of a dying man (the mandolin-flavored "Past Times"), Taylor updates blues traditions while not falling into the we're-in-the-blues-business-now groove, a trap that rounds the edges off far too many "new" blues acts.
Taylor's mastery of the banjo, mandolin, and Hooker-style riff guitar comes in handy, too, as do his daughter Cassie's backup vocals and the occasional touch of jazz-flavored cello. Vocally Taylor does owe a debt to John Lee, but there's enough of the lazy country blues there, Á la Taj Mahal, along with a Van Morrison R&B/jazz feel, to ensure that he doesn't fall into the quicksand of cliché.
[Originally published in August, 2003.]
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