May 23, 2024

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CD review: Larry Taylor and The Taylor Family with The Soul Blues Healers – Generations of Blues; West Side Legacy – 2023: Video, CD cover

Larry Hill Taylor, legendary blues singer and drummer, is the elder in the musical family of the late singer Vera Hill Taylor and master guitarist Eddie “Playboy” Taylor-VeeJay, the musical partner of Jimmy Reed who propelled Chicago blues with boogie and “lump.”

Larry Lean Lookup MUG Today Larry is a legend in his own right. He diligently carries on the traditions of his Mississippi-born parents. With his band, the Soul Blues Healers, he brings the rhythm and spirit of his neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side – from Howlin’ Wolf to James Brown. The music reaches all types of audiences and brings people together.

“Generations of Blues” by the talented Taylor family happily revives Chicago blues with a tough, old-school attitude, and adds a spicy topping with a contemporary vibe.

Eddie Taylor, Sr. and his wife Vera brought their blues from Mississippi to Chicago’s west side. They had eight children, five of which became musicians of note in their own rights.

Larry invited the musical members of the family into the studio in 2015 and later 2017 with him and his band, the Soul Blues Healers, to reprise songs from their parent’s generation. Presented here for all to hear in celebration and dedication to what would have been Eddie Senior’s 100th birthday on January 29 of this year. Larry handles some of the drums and Larry plays guitar; both sing.  They and sisters Brenda and Demetria take care of the vocals along with Larry’s son Dullah (Liljet2X) who raps on one track; his track was recorded in May. Brother Tim plays drums on the songs Larry doesn’t.

It’s the kind that involves the real deal, not imposters — in this case family members, carrying on a Chicago blues tradition.

Lots of guests are also in support of the effort. Matthew Skoller adds his harp on four cuts. Abraham Avery and Michael “Sleepy” Riley share in the bass duties. Four guest guitarists and another four guest keyboardists support the effort and B.J. Emery (trombone) and Ronnie G (sax) are the horn section who appear on a number of tracks.

Things commence with Larry doing his own “She Treats Me Just The Same,” some straight up Chicago blues with Larry fronting the band and Joe Brinson playing some stinging guitar. Nice sax work and great overall effort! Their Dad’s “Take Your Hand Down” follows with Larry on vocals and Eddie Jr. on guitar. Skoller blows some mean harp here and there is some really good piano featured, too.

The father, Eddie Taylor, was a fixture on Chicago’s West Side blues scene. His distinctive guitar work was a driving force behind the music of Jimmy Reed, Snooky Pryor, John Lee Hooker, Floyd Jones, Elmore James and more, until his death in 1985.

In 2015, Taylor’s son Larry, a singer and drummer, got his brothers and sisters together to create a tribute to their father and the West Side blues that nourished them. Since then, that album project grew to become a salute to the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth in 1923.

“Bad Girl” is another of their Dad’s cuts, with Demetria on vocals, Junior on guitar, some more nice piano and both horns. She sings with passion and the band jumps and swings nicely here. “I Feel So Bad” features Larry on vocals again along with Eddie Junior on guitar and Skoller on harp. The piano is there, too; another classic Chicago track done well with some jumping guitar and piano once again!

“I Found Out” features Brenda singing her mothers’ song; it’s a slow and sultry performance as Brenda sings with authority. The horns give good support and Junior handles the guitar nicely. Brenda also follows with a big rendition of J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Son” with a gender change from Lenoir’s original. Eddie does a sweet job on guitar and the trombone and sax stand out, too, and there is a well done organ solo to savor, too.

Demetria returns with Magic Sam’s “You Belong To Me.” She sings with her signature grit and emotions as the horns and Eddie’s guitar support her well. Senior’s “Big Town Playboy” is sung by Junior and he plays guitar, too. Skoller adds some great harp. There is also some super piano served up here, too.

Larry comes back next with his own “Penitentiary Blues.” Killer Ray Allison plays some funky guitar, the horns blow some cool stuff in support and there is a little organ so help the cause, too. Brinson returns to help Larry on Larry’s “I Paid My Dues” with the horns, organ and guitar all doing their jobs nicely.

This tough, old-school session includes 13 songs performed by the Taylor family’s second and third generations: with five written by Eddie Taylor, one by Vera Taylor, four by Larry Taylor and three blues covers.

It’s truly a blues family affair. And since that family is steeped in the deep tradition of Chicago’s West Side blues, it’s blues with a feeling, doubled down on by these rich family connections. The entire session breathes new life into the classically tough Eddie Taylor songbook and adds a pair of blues chestnuts for good measure.

Eddie Taylor Jr. plays guitar on nine tracks recorded before his death in 2019. Larry Taylor handles most of the vocals, Larry’s son, Lil’ Jet, raps on an adaptation of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Sisters Brenda and Demetria contribute fiery vocals and brother Tim handles most of the drums.

Larry Taylor opens it all up with a hard-driving “She Treats Me Just the Same” with relentless drums and stinging guitar and the harp-backed shuffle “Take Your Hand Down”; Demetria Taylor follows with a scorching vocal on “Bad Girl.” Johnny Taylor slips in with the bouncy “I Feel Do Bad,” then Brenda Taylor takes the next two fierce turns with “I Found Out” (a Vera Taylor composition) and “Talk to Your Son” (from J.B. Lenoir).

Demetria comes back hard on Magic Sam’s “You Belong to Me;” Eddie Taylor Jr. offers fine take of “Big Town Playboy:” then Larry carries on with a “Penitentiary Blues,” “I Paid My Dues,” then Larry’s son, Lil’ Jet raps “No Shine.” Larry returns for a swinging “Jump Down American Queen,” and the closer is the gorgeous harp-centric instrumental, “Larry & Eddie Jr.’s Groove.”

Liljet2x gives us his “No Shine,” a slick rap with the third Taylor generation showing his chops. The guitar (Ice Mike Thomas), organ and drums help keep the rap flowing as Liljet2x both fronts and sings backup on the track. Larry’s Jump Down American Queen is up next; he leads a funky jam with the horns doing a super job and Allson nailing the guitar lead. The final cut is an cool instrumental “Larry & Eddie Jr. Groove (Blues In The Rain).” Junior’s guitar rings, Skoller’s harp sings and the piano flows with the great groove based on Eddie Senior’s song. It’s a sweet ending to a great family reunion. It’s a greasy and delightful cut!

The Taylor family does their mother and father proud with this baker’s dozen of cuts keeping the west side blues alive. Lover’s of great Chicago blues will truly enjoy this family blues affair!

Generations of Blues: West Side Legacy | Larry Taylor

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