Otis Taylor can make people nervous. His take on the blues is defiant, angry, aggressive, and confrontational, owing as much to Peter Tosh as Charley Patton. Although he carries the dust of 1920s country blues in his mostly acoustic songs, his railings against social injustices are thoroughly contemporary. Taylor is an often pedantic songwriter, but he pulls it off by sheer bravado and conviction, and like a driver who blows through a stop sign, he's sure about where he's going. Truth Is Not Fiction follows the template of his previous three albums, with no drums (the rhythm comes from the sheer propulsion of Taylor's guitar, banjo, and mandolin playing) and a sort of Appalachian griot approach to things. One of the highlights is the strange Russian blues (complete with cello) of "House of the Crosses," a perfect example of Taylor's mix of rustic themes with cosmopolitan purposes. The full speed ahead rhythm banjo on "Babies Don't Lie" drills into your head like a freight train, and the ante is upped with double-barrelled banjos in both channels on "Shakie's Gone," making Taylor sound at times like Richie Havens on steroids. The album closer, a gut-bucket cover of the Big Joe Williams classic "Baby, Please Don't Go," seems oddly stuck in low gear, but overall Truth Is Not Fiction works well. Given his agenda, Taylor isn't for everyone, but he brings a fresh approach and a welcome shot in the ass to contemporary blues.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett