Because it runs the risk of sounding samey, Taylor’s trance-inducing sound, based mainly on blues and other traditional styles, is no easy thing to do year after year, and his last couple or three albums have sounded relatively thin. Not so with this one, with its wall-to-wall harrowing songs and tunings, tempi and textures to match. If anything, he’s using a little more instrumentation than usual; opener “The Devil’s Gonna Lie” rides on haunting pedal steel, swirling B-3, pounding drums, multi-tracked cornet and African djembe, as well as Taylor’s gruff gospel vocals and choral backups, to explore evil’s ubiquity, and it kicks booty. “Contraband Blues” uses considerably less instrumentation to create just as dense and eerie a sound while commenting on the Union Army’s holding of escaped slaves in the North as contraband during the Civil War. His songs — often musings inspired by stories more than stories themselves — aren’t “topical” so much as considerations of human conundrums like the World War I soldier in “Never Been to Africa” who fights abroad but never gets to see his ancestral homeland.
By Steve Holtje on 06.28.12 in Spotlights
Seventy-five years ago, on June 8, 1937, the world first heard one of the most popular choral works ever written. It's become so iconic that its opening, "O Fortuna," has been used in commercials, at sporting events, and...
By John Schaefer on 11.16.11 in Reviews
Simone Dinnerstein was not completely unknown — a few critics in Philadelphia and New York were aware of her singular talents. She had, for example, attracted praise for playing a beautiful, nocturnal piece by Geor...
By Britt Robson on 01.26.10 in Reviews
Hiromi Uehara's virtuosic power to bedazzle was apparent from her first record. As with forebears ranging from Fats Waller to Art Tatum to Oscar Peterson, the drama with this tiny Japanese dynamo has always been whether...
By John Morthland on 11.12.14 in Features
The R&B electric guitarist topped charts and broke gender barriers in the '60s.