Bluesman Otis Taylor lives in Colorado where the Clovis People roamed 13,000 years ago before mysteriously disappearing. His latest album digs into another early civilization, unearthing the events and people from his childhood that continue to haunt him. The singer/instrumentalist, who has earned more prestigious nominations than the number of fingers on both hands, shares the songs and stories at Blues Alley with the caution that they may take listeners in unexpected directions. It should be noted that fans looking for volumes 1 and 2 will search in vain -- he named this album volume 3 to emphasize its journey into the past.
|If you go|
|Where: Blues Alley|
|When: 8 and 10 p.m. Tuesday|
|Info: $25 at 202-337-4141 or bluesalley.com|
The recent discovery of relics adjacent to Taylor's property set his mind racing back to the Denver Folklore Society. The song "Harry, Turn the Music Up" is what the youngsters would shout to the man in charge. They listened eagerly to the blues, jazz and folk songs he talked about and musicians he invited to perform. Some who congregated there were black, some were white, and some -- the children of railroad men -- were born with the rhythm of the rails. Spurred by the music he heard there, Taylor soon acquired a banjo and was so determined to play it well that he practiced at every opportunity, even while riding his unicycle to school.
"Babies Don't Lie" confirms his trust in children and hope that they will not go astray. He feels fortunate that his own children have been spared the tragedies visited many today and is proud that his daughter Cassie, heard on this recording, is a highly regarded bassist and a frequent member of his band.
"Think I Won't" is a mother's threat to a drug dealer she meets on the playground, while "Little Willy" recounts the dreadful things that can happen to innocents.
"Before the Columbine shootings, I wrote the song about a little boy who was shot in a schoolyard," Taylor said. "His mother learned about it when someone called her on the telephone. I had no idea that such a thing could happen so close to home, so I put it away for five years."
On a happier note, "Lee and Arnez" were neighbors who owned a boxer dog, the "first dog I fell in love with." Their story contrasts with the couple whose breakup he addresses in "It's Done Happened Again."
Although the sadness of past events hovers over many of the songs in "Clovis People," Taylor leads a happy, productive life today. He and his wife conduct their Blues in the Schools "Writing the Blues" program for all age levels. When he is not traveling to schools, he is composing new songs that dig into his musical past.
"I only have a finite time to do what I do because I'm aware of mortality, so I try to increase my catalog," he said. "A composer can write a lot of songs, but usually only one or two become famous. Because there's no way of knowing which songs people will like, it's important to keep working."