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The first thought that came to mind when I heard this was, where's the blues? Cassie Taylor, after all, is the bass-playing daughter of blues guitarist Otis Taylor and has connections with a slew of blues musicians, thanks largely to sharing the stage with Otis. She “fronted” an album titled Bluesmasters, Vol. 2, which deserves a review all on its own and features Mickey Thomas, Hubert Sumlin, Hazel Miller, Pinetop Perkins, and Eric Gales. Well, maybe not fronted, but her name came first and that counts for something. I had heard about her but had not heard her and, well, I just expected blues. While the songs on the album may have some blues underpinnings, blues it is not.

Which is not to say that it is not a good album. It is, in fact, an outstanding album. For the second time this year, I have been handed albums by supposed blues players and have found not the blues as much as outstanding R&B, rock and soul. Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps' Come On Home split the genres nicely, the band solid and in fact rockin' at times while James supplied enough variety with her vocal range to make the album a winner in anyone's books. Lightning strikes twice with Taylor's Blue, a mixture of rockin' soul with hints of funk and rock in just the right amounts.

Taylor has a very pleasant voice and I do not doubt that much of the publicity keys on it, but the voice is not all there is. The band is exceptional, which always helps, and the production and arrangements flawless, but what really sticks out is the material. Taylor and crew give us ten magnificent songs laid out in perfect sequence, and if you don't think sequencing cannot make an album, don't tell The Beatles or Pink Floyd. There is magic in starting the album off with an upbeat rocker a la lighter Allman Brothers (Memphis) only to dive into the slow blues end of the pool (Spoken For) before going whole hog soul with the stunningly soulful Black Coffee. It is this kind of 1-2-3 punch which made so many albums classics in the R&B world of the seventies, not that it stops at three. The album follows all the way through ten, the songs following one another like they were written that way.

I remember thinking when I heard the Teresa James album that it was just the infusion of the different sides of R&B that I needed, the songs floating around the edges of and occasionally diving in to the roots of soul. I'm thinking the same thing here. Until these two albums hit the streets, I honestly had forgotten how much I love R&B. Oh, I knew the old stuff was great. Maybe I was just wondering if anyone could play it with soul anymore. Now I know.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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