Otis Taylor : Contraband

The theme of love and relationships runs through Contraband, a release that might be Otis Taylor’s best to date.

From the gritty trance blues of the opening track, “The Devil’s Gonna Lie” (with haunting echoes of John Lee Hooker), to the more buoyant feel of “Yell Your Name,” and on to the engagingly reflective “Blind Piano Teacher,” the disc changes mood and groove deftly from track to track. Otis even throws in some bluegrass-tinged fare, “Banjo Boogie Blues,” and a little Delta blues on “Lay On My Delta Bed.”

Whether it’s love gone bad, a cheating partner, or a sweet love affair between an older man and a blind woman, Taylor and his backers dial in the sound just right on Contraband’s 14 cuts. Impressive.

Contraband is out Tuesday, February 14, on Telarc Records.