Soul Stew Records CD4221
12 songs – 50 minutes
A native of the greater Philadelphia area, full-throated singer/guitarist/songwriter Norman Taylor is a throwback of sorts because his playing style is strongly rooted in the country blues, but he’s a thoroughly modern artist, as this intimate album shows.
Despite his first love, he’s equally influenced by such contemporary bluesmen as Keb’ Mo’, Eric Bibb and Guy Davis. From Delaware To The Delta successfully weaves music of the mighty Mississippi with plenty of fresh tunes that deliver a heaping helping of soul, jazz, gospel, rock, folk and modern blues.
It’s not often that an artist reveals the inspiration for his work, but Taylor’s done so in the accompanying liner notes. “The idea…came out of an article…by Terry Mullins in BluesBlast Magazine,” he says. “He pointed out how my music had this connection of the country blues that I discovered late in life and the Philadelphia soul music that I grew up on as a kid.”
On most of the work, he’s backed by a full band. Taylor contributes acoustic, electric, resonator and slide guitar as well as banjo and mandolin, aided by Steve Goldstein (guitar), Wes Lanich (organ) Michelle Lucas and Kel Weston (bass), Eric Selby (drums) and Jay Summerour (harmonica, with backing vocals from BD Mylo. He’s got a warm, pleasant baritone and vocal delivery on the nine originals and three well-crafted cover tunes contained herein. And the band compliments him perfectly, providing excellent support while never overpowering.
“Grown Folks,” a modern electric blues with full band, kicks off the set. It’s both a warning to a woman who accidentally awakens him in the middle of the night as she’s about out to walk out the door with bags packed that if she leaves the relationship’s over for good and also a plea for her to stay and work things out like grown-ups. It’s a great opener with a far different message than most blues songs dealing with romance.
The arrangement turns to stripped-down guitar and harp for the acoustic “Worried Man,” an introspective number about the difficulty trying to remain positive in a world where life keeps beating you down. It’s back to full ensemble for the title cut, “Delaware To The Delta,” a slow blues that tells the story of how Taylor got to where he is today and the feelings that run through him before he picks up the acoustic again for “Don’t You Worry About Me,” which informs an ex-love that he’s done with her and the dark clouds that always seem to accompany her and he’s moved on.
Two familiar covers, both given new arrangements — Skip James’ “Special Rider Blues” and a jazzy version of “Built For Comfort,” written by Willie Dixon and an essential part of Howlin’ Wolf’s songbook – sandwich the original, “Just Find Your Faith,” in the three tunes that follow. It urges listeners to look to the love they already hold inside when times are darkest, noting “the road to joy is made today.” The song takes you to church without noticing unless you’re paying attention.
Taylor gives the band a rest as he picks up a baritone acoustic guitar to deliver the instrumental “Due South,” which puts his prodigious fingerpicking talents on display, before he delivers “Road To Redemption” with full band atop acoustic slide. It sings to the battle for equality, patience and salvation, addressing the fight that all Americans of color and oppressed people everywhere face today.
Written by Wanda Johnson, South Carolina’s Lady Of Rhythm, Blues And Soul, “The River” follows. It’s a memory of fishing with one’s father as a youth and a desire to return to that place in time as a means to wipe out bad memories about an ex-love. Mylo doubles the vocal throughout. Two more originals — “Sunday’s Dream,” about the visions of the promised land in the minds of slaves and refugees awash in a boat on troubled seas, and “Motivation,” a modern blues that tries to point the way for folks feeling that they’re stuck in a never-ending loop to a dead end in life – bring the set to a close.
Highly entertaining and delightfully delivered throughout. Available through CDBaby and other online marketers and strongly recommended if your tastes run to acoustic blues with a modern feel.