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Cassie Taylor - Blue

Hypertension Music

10 Tracks; 32 minutes

Cassie Taylor is a Colorado native and self-proclaimed “daughter of a bluesman.” Taylor is the offspring of noted bluesman Otis Taylor and she was a member of his band for about ten years playing bass and performing backup vocals. Cassie has begun a career of her own, recently participating in the Girls With Guitars project alongside Dani Wilde and Samantha Fish, and singing several tracks on Bluesmasters Volume 2. Her solo debut Blue highlights her singing, instrumental abilities and intelligent songwriting. Although she tours with her trio The Soul Cavalry, the band on Blue consists of Jeremy Colson on drums, James Rooster Olson on guitars and Steve Marriner on harp. Together they create a bold, textured body of work that doesn’t quite fit the blues mold.

The album starts off promising with upbeat, clean-tone guitars and a tight rhythm on “Memphis.” It’s a short song that never quite fulfills the promise. It’s a little too restrained, like it was caught in third gear when the clutch blew out. You keep waiting for the shift to high gear and it never comes. The same can be said for more than a few of the tracks.

“Memphis” gives way to the sultry “Spoken For” where Cassie Taylor’s seductive, breathy singing lets the protagonist think he might still have a chance. This seems to be the Cassie Taylor style of singing – the come-on, attempting to beguile and bewitch the listener - especially the male listeners - instead of impress them with dynamics, power or emotion. She sings too soft, even on songs like “Haunted” or “Make Me Cry.” “Haunted” should be more visceral. We should feel the pain and the despair and turmoil of being haunted by lost love. “Make Me Cry” has an insistent beat and grooving guitar line, but in Taylor’s voice there’s none of the anger or hurt implied by the lyrics. It sounds like the same “come up and see me” routine she uses on the other songs. The song starts off with the line “Hey asshole, I wrote you a song” but here’s no oomph, there’s no fire in the belly, and there’s no tangible connection to the subject matter. Taylor relies too much on the seductress act.

Overall, Blue is a one dimensional album but there are flashes of brilliance peppered throughout the set. James Rooster Olsen is a fine guitar player and his phrasing is impeccable. “Goodbye” features some fleet-fingered guitar work from Olsen and in “Make Me Cry” he lets it rip for a moment and captures the essence of the tune in a brief explosion of guitar fireworks. Cassie Taylor plays bass and piano and in “Disappointment” the shimmering chords and her sidewinder bass line evoke the empty desolate feeling described in the lyrics. The disc closes with the stunning “Waste of Time.” The soft-touch vocal delivery actually works perfectly on this one which takes a wistful look back on the last year of a tumultuous relationship. Here the delivery matches the content – it’s sad, it’s attracted, it’s dejected and it’s not altogether disappointed. This is the highpoint of this album and unfortunately it comes at the end.

It’s tough to categorize this music as blues. Blues takes many forms and has influenced nearly every form that has come after it. Some think that the blues should adhere to the formula and that it’s what you do with the formula that makes you great. Some think you can throw away the formula recreate the blues in your own image. I come down somewhere in the middle. There isn’t just one formula for blues, but there’s a point where the ingredients become too far removed from the original recipe that it becomes something new. I can’t honestly say I think Cassie Taylor has made a blues record, but it may appeal to blues fans. Cassie Taylor calls her musical style “NeoBlues” but abandoning the blues format and giving it a prefix does not make it blues. Cassie Taylor’s music is Poppy, Jazzy, and even dips into the Easy Listening well on occasion. There’s a reason a hot turnaround after 12 bars of raw feeling connects with so many people and there is none of that to be found on this release. There’s no grit to this record and it’s a shame and a sin. Minor keys and harmonicas don’t make it blues and it takes more than breathy kisses on the neck to connect with people for any meaningful outcome. Blue seems to hover in the Pop category where tedium is exalted and no one ever heard of Big Mama Thornton or Ma Rainey. Cassie Taylor has much more to offer and should put it to better use.

Cassie Taylor’s songs are good and her personal lyrics resonate with anyone who has ever loved, lost or lusted but her delivery falls flat. Maybe it was the producer’s decision, but her style was the same when she sang on The Bluesmasters Volume 2. There is definitely something here though and if she can overcome the coy vixen routine and sing with passion and depth, the combination with her stripped down arrangements and insightful lyrics will result in dynamic, lasting music.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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