Rant ‘N’ Roll: Tasha Taylor, Carlo Ditta & Town Mountain

Rant ‘N’ Roll: Tasha Taylor, Carlo Ditta & Town Mountain

—by , May 4, 2016

05-04 Rant 'N' Roll - Tasha Taylor

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Tasha Taylor was born in Dallas and raised on a tour bus. Her promising 2008 Revival debut preceded 2011’s Taylormade on which she covered her daddy’s “Who’s Makin’ Love.” Her third CD, Honey For The Biscuit (Ruf Records), makes your mouth water. She wrote all 13 tracks, plays a mighty fine guitar, sings like an angelic devil-girl—or a devilish angel—and has some kind of band pumping away behind her: bass, two more guitars, keyboards, percussion, three drummers and a full section of scintillating brass. Ooh, I do loves me some brass!

Her father, Johnny Taylor not only thrilled my 17-year-old soul in 1968 with “Who’s Making Love” but also my 22-year-old soul in 1973 with “Cheaper To Keep Her.” By the time his “Disco Lady” was the #1 song in America in 1976, I had moved on. Taylor became a popular Dallas disc-jockey in the 1980s before I rediscovered him as a stone cold bluesman in the 1990s (his Good Love topped the Billboard blues chart for a few weeks in 1996.) He died of a heart attack at the age of 66 16 years ago.

Tasha has a smooth vocal delivery that takes the rural out of the blues and injects it with some uptown funk. She studied drama at Boston University before co-starring on TV shows like “Ugly Betty” and “House.” It took her three years to write these songs on her guitar. She has a lot of friends. Some of ‘em show up here like Keb Mo on “Family Tree,” Robert Randolph on “Little Miss Suzie” (who provides some lap steel on this little country gem) and red hot mama Samantha Fish sings and stings her own damn guitar (“Leave That Dog Alone”) on a song about some no-good cheatin’ fool. Died-in-the-Wool bluesman Tommy Castro sings “Same Old Thing.” It’s a party.

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Carlo Ditta is one of the most crucial spokes in the New Orleans wheel whom you never heard of. Maybe that’s because he’s been too busy being a singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer-label operator working with a myriad of Crescent City artists to the point where he’s just now, at 61, releasing his first solo CD, What I’m Talkin’ About, on his own Orleans Records, for which he produced Willy DeVille’s greatest album, Victory Mixture (1990).

The title track starts this spirited romp by declaring—in no uncertain terms—“you’re lookin’ good, baby, just like a little ugly girl should.” “Go On Fool” is more sophisticated than the funky old Smiley Lewis original. “As The World Turns” adds some social commentary plus accordion. They say “I’m Leaving You” is the last song that the legendary Louie Prima [1910-1978] ever recorded (Ditta also pays tribute to Prima on “Pretty Acres). Ernie-K-Doe’s “Beating Like A Tom Tom” beats the original. Then there’s Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is.” Rather than even try to compete with Neville’s heavenly vocal, Ditta does it down by conversationalizing the situation. It’s off-putting at first but only until you get into Ditta’s groove with repeated listenings. And, boy, let me tell you: this CD holds up remarkably well. “Try A Little Love” is a staunch blues-rock instrumental. “Walk That Walk” gets into Tony Joe White Swamp Rock territory and he closes with Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross.” New Orleans lost Mighty Sam McClain and Allen Toussaint last year, both of whom worked with Ditta. May Carlo go ever on.

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Southern Crescent (Lo Hi Records) by Town Mountain is fast-faster-fastest bluegrass that takes full advantage of the genre’s history but adds a honky-tonk chaser, a jam-band aesthetic and the kind of stringed chops you’d expect from Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs or Ralph Stanley. Their fifth studio album is their most satisfying yet what with its wild mix of mandolin, banjo, guitars, flying fiddle and the down-home rubber-band vocals of Robert Greer who sings as if the ghost of Levon Helm had been cured, flavored and preserved like salt on raw ham (although raw ham hardly has the kind of high lonesome harmonies that Jesse Langlais adds). In fact, I dare say Town Mountain—produced by Dirk Powell of Eric Clapton’s band—is single-handedly dragging bluegrass into the future.


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