Cassie Taylor,
(Hypertension, 2011)

various artists,
The Bluesmasters, Vol. II
(Directmusic, 2012)

Cassie Taylor is the daughter of blues legend Otis Taylor, and for seven years, she played bass and sang backup for her father on his tours. For the past three years or so, she's been out working solo, so this is a young woman who at the age of 25 has 10 years of blues touring under her belt, enough to qualify her for a Ph.D. in the blues.

With Blue, Taylor wants to show off her versatility. Instead of sticking to the tried and true 12-bar blues, she traffics in ballads, uptempo songs, even some pop- and jazz-influenced material, but all of it is rooted deeply in the blues. In "Bought Borrowed Stolen," she sings about how she will love her partner through everything, even when he is old, and her blues feeling infuses what could be a mawkish love ballad and renders it so that we can feel the pain this pledge is going to cost the woman. It's a masterful performance, rendered more masterful because of the lack of surface bluster. This woman is a talent.

Taylor is also featured on the second Bluesmasters album, singing eight of the 12 songs. (Hazel Miller and Mickey Thomas sing the others.) Whereas on her solo album she is accompanied mainly by her road band, here she is backed by an all-star lineup, including Ainsley Dunbar, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and Eric Gales. On this one, the band has much more to do and Taylor, surrounded by these musicians, takes her own performance up a notch. The songs are mostly blues standards: "Talk to Me, Baby," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Big Boss Man" -- tunes that are imprinted on all of our brains. The artists all sound like they're having a ball, so the record has the loose and spontaneous feel of a live performance. As you listen, you'll want to be sitting in a club, nursing a drink and watching them play.

If you want to hear an emerging blues giant in a variety of settings, these two albums are for you.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 January 2013

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