"Taylor's rich voice soars above the band, and if you close your eyes there are moments when you'd swear the late, great Lou Rawls was at the mic."
Larry Hill Taylor: Stepson of the Blues: Reviews
Notice on Larry's Website Guestbook:
We are still hearing good things about the Blues and the Spirit Symposium and your wonderful performance at the opening reception on Thursday, May 21 as well as your appropriate and cogent remarks about the state of the music business at the Lived Experience Panel. Thanks for helping us set the tone and thanks for bringing in all the Chicago musicians who gave us one of the best jams of the summer.
Long live the blues!
Dr. Janice Monti
Saw you at Westminster Presbyterian Church with the DC Blues Society in DC tonight (Saturday, 4/14/07)-really enjoyed your performance. Thanks.
Drummer and singer Larry Taylor learned the blues from his stepfather, Eddie Taylor, the guitarist who helped pioneer the postwar Chicago style. He's since played sideman to other greats, including A.C. Reed, Willie Kent, and Johnny Littlejohn, but for several years he's also fronted his own band. On his debut CD, the new They Were in This House (A.V.), Taylor presents himself as an earnest roots man, using his grainy baritone on standards like Howlin' Wolf's raucous "Killing Floor" and Jimmy Reed's "Signals of Love." (Wolf, Reed, and other now legendary figures were regular guests at the Taylors' west-side home, hence the album's title.) Taylor's own "Blues, Hard Luck & Trouble" has a Wolfish lope that showcases his rhythmic sense and quivering down-home vibrato, but he's most interesting on modern fare; while many soul and blues singers today smooth the edges off their songs, Taylor revels in the aggression and unbridled sensuality that infuses classic R & B and soul. On "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone"--a 1971 Johnnie Taylor hit that inspired a stream of answer songs--he sings with a blunt ferocity that evokes the dark, amoral world of the street hustler; on the cautionary tale "Last Two Dollars," another Johnnie Taylor track, his rasp contains a combination of anguish and stark desperation that evokes Mississippi's Highway 61, where rusted cars and rotting trailer homes languish within yards of glittering casinos
"Larry Taylor is the real deal. He is steeped in what Robert Palmer calls "deep blues." He is able to go into the blues landscape that people associate with the likes of Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James. His timing is impeccable, and his vernacular is clear, passionate and persuasive."
--Chicago African American poet and essayist Sterling D. Plumpp after hearing Larry Taylor's album They Were in This House ), Oct. 18, 2011
Sterling D. Plumpp, poet and essayist, was born to a sharecropping family in Clinton, MS, in 1940. Living 10 miles from school and wanting for a school bus, he spent less than a year in elementary studies. Nevertheless, when his family moved to Jackson, he graduated high school as class valedictorian. He moved to Chicago in 1962, spent two years in college and two in the military, then worked at the post office, before finding his niche in the University of Illinois faculty, 1971-2001, in the African American Studies and English departments.
Plumpp won a million dollars in the Illinois lottery, which has allowed him to travel and continue his writing. His books include Ornate with Smoke, Black Rituals, and Blues Narratives. He edited Somehow We Survive, a collection of South African writing, and taught in the master of fine arts program at Chicago State University during the mid 2000s. In 2003 Third World Press published his poetry collection, Velvet BeBop Kentecloth. Plumpp listens to live jazz and blues and knows the musicians; his poetry follows these musical rhythms. He was a featured elder speaker at the Dominican University Blues and Spirit symposia in 2008 and 2010.
..."With his siblings, Larry Taylor is continuing the blues tradition, long may it continue. I have no hesitation in giving this CD a glowing recommendation, definitely one to be investigated."
Like so many younger blues artists, Chicagoan Larry Taylor grew up immersed in the music. The stepson of the late Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed’s guitarist during his most productive years, Larry took up drums as a youth. He recently moved out from behind the kit to display his vocal chops, which lend themselves perfectly to the soul-blues material on this debut CD.
Co-produced by Taylor, keyboardist Barrelhouse Bonni, and Steve Wagner of Delmark Records, “They Were in This House” is one of the best-sounding blues albums of the year. And the material is well-chosen, particularly “Jody Got Your Girl and Gone,” a funked-up military cadence, and “Last $2,”, both by Johnnie Taylor (no relation).
Taylor covers Howlin’ Wolf as well, and his no-nonsense original tunes sound like they, too, could be taken from the Wolf’s songbook
...while Taylor doesn't have a huge vocal range, he is an expressive, convincing vocalist who has no problem getting his emotional points across on either hardcore electric Chicago blues or hardcore soul. Taylor handles himself pleasingly well on blues items like Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor," Elmore James' "Knocking at Your Door," and Jimmy Reed's "Signals of Love" as well as on two songs that are associated with the late soul man Johnnie Taylor: "Jody Got Your Girl and Gone" and "Last $2." They Were in This House (which Larry Taylor produced with his manager Bonni McKeown, aka Barrelhouse Bonni) isn't groundbreaking -- no one will accuse Taylor of being innovative -- but it's a solid, enjoyable demonstration of the fact that the Chicagoan made a wise decision when he decided to start recording as a singer.
"Expect really great songs, fine arrangements, some tasty horns, genuine West /Side Chicago electric guitar licks and perfect vocal execution. They Were in This House has a spirit and personality that are 100% for real.
This is one of those CD's that is so good, so loaded with the real deal blues and so well done that it is so hard to only pick out a few tracks to mention.
It’s refreshing to see a new Chicago band that neither approaches blues via a funk/modern R&B sensibility, nor is consciously retro.”
Larry Taylor is a strong vocalist who is at home covering Johnnie Taylor’s “Jody Got Your Girl and Gone” (in 2 parts) as he is reviving Howlin’Wolf…Taylor’s originals, “Blues, Hard Luck & Trouble,” and “Green Line Blues” (inspired by Chicago’s mass transit) are solid songs and like the rest of the album, nicely played… He sings with plenty of soul which is matched by his backing band. This is well worth checking out and giving a listen to.
Taylor takes his own spin on these cover tunes and makes them unique and fun to listen to. Espeically tops on my list would be his appproach two the two--count them-- two Johnnie Taylor tunes "Jody Got your Girl and Gone" and "Last $2."... It all comes back to the vocal performances of Taylor who does a fine job of holding everything together. Check him out on the original composition "Tell Me Baby" parts one and two. He moans and groans in sync with the guitar. It's a wonderful little exchange that just rides this amazing groove and keeps on going. A great CD from the Windy City
West side Blues drummer Larry Hill Taylor has been called a "21st century griot" - a man who carries the stories of African-Americans in his bones, in his drums, in his voice.
Taylor, 55, spoke at the Forest Park Public Library last Thursday to promote his book, "Stepson of the Blues: a Chicago Song of Survival," as part of the library's Black History Month celebratory series of events. With him was co-author, "Barrelhouse" Bonni McKeown, who played piano at the event.
"Stepson of the Blues" - published in May 2010 - took three years to write, and is a history of Chicago told from the perspective of an African-American child growing up on the West Side in the late '50s and early '60s.
Taylor's mother Vera married Blues-guitar pioneer Eddie Taylor in the early '60s. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards pays homage to Eddie Taylor's playing, as a guitarist for Jimmy Reed, in his new book "Life."
But unlike the British bands, who repackaged the "Chicago Sound" and earned millions selling it back to American youth in the 1960s, original innovators like Taylor never had financial success with their music. Many Blues pioneers fell victim to theft of their intellectual property and songwriting royalties.
Taylor hung around Chicago bluesmen as a child. He learned to drum on pots and pans, imitating drummers he'd seen at the old Maxwell Street Market. Musicians like Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Hubert Sumlin would visit his mother's Lawndale home and stay for her cooking...
Steve Sanders interviewed Larry and Bonni on WGN-TV Channel 9 Midday show, St. Patrick's Day 2011. "Chicago is the home of electric blues, where it started. But we're not seeing the devotion one might expect, are we?"
In the Chicago music community,WestSide singer and drummer Larry Hill Taylor is a crowned prince, the son of noted blues singer VeraTaylor and stepson of guitarist Eddie Taylor. In Stepson of the Blues, Taylor (with blues pianist Bonni McKeown) tells his story of strife and survival in Lawndale during the wild 1950s and 60s. A must-read for anyone, anywhere, who has a love and appreciation for the Chicago blues scene.
I just finished stepson of the blues. What a remarkable, sensitive, and important book. I ordered Larry's CD as well.
Stepson of the Blues won’t leave you be. Every line, chapter and drumbeat will gnaw at the scabs of racism, ignorance and injustice; underscoring the timeless, ubiquitous voice of Our People.
--Regina Harris Baiocchi, Composer, poet and author of Indigo Sound; Urban Haiku; and Blues Haiku
...Larry Taylor’s early recollections about music are priceless and powerful, especially his intense childhood drive to express himself using homemade drums, and then a toy set from his birth father that his stepfather trashes. Finally Cassell Burrows, Wolf’s drummer, one of a steady stream of notable blues musicians regularly dropping by the Taylor home, sees Larry’s passion and arranges to leave a practice set at the house.
While living above Big Duke’s Blue Flame Lounge on the West Side—another of many abodes for the Taylors, who seemed always one jump ahead of eviction—Larry pries up boards in the kitchen so he and his siblings can watch their father perform with Howlin’ Wolf’s band downstairs.
After all the bad blood between Larry and his stepfather Eddie, Larry ultimately recognizes that Eddie was a great musician who was victimized by poverty, bad luck, missed opportunities, lack of management and perhaps even by his loyalty to troubled friends like Jimmy Reed. Larry repeatedly champions his stepfathers worthiness, perhaps seeing something of himself in Eddie Taylor.
...In many ways this is a courageous book. Taylor details his incarcerations and serious drug problems and continuing efforts to rehabilitate himself. In his attempts to come clean, he invokes the names of many people who might have chosen anonymity, including family members, and makes some unsubstantiated charges against individuals and institutions. However, there may be merit to some of his charges and justifiable outrage about an unfair, changing music scene that is making survival very difficult for perhaps the most marginal of working musicians—the true blues artists of the originating culture...
(see the magazine for the rest of this long, critical review, which we hope to address in a dialog later)