Electric blues guitarist Melvin Taylor had been recording solo albums sporadically for 20 years when Dirty Pool came along - and was somehow just about to become famous. He was already a hit in Europe, but it wasn't until a series of gigs at Chicago's famous blues clubs that Taylor slowly gained a well-deserved reputation as an equal talent among the giants before him, like Otis Rush, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
While early records like Melvin Taylor Plays the Blues For You show an equally amazing jazz side, Taylor traded in his Wes Montgomery-inspired runs for more Luther Allison/Jimi Hendrix attacks with the formation of the trio Melvin Taylor and the Slack Band in the mid-'90s.
The title track of that formation's second album, "Dirty Pool," is actually more the uncompromising, hard-rocking, electric Texas blues of Vaughan and Johnny Winter than the sweet Chicago soul of Buddy Guy.
In fact, three tracks on this 1997 release, including "Dirty Pool," were SRV tunes. Other standards, like "KansasCity" and "Floodin' in California," also have more of a Lone Star State approach. But the Jackson, Missouri, native Taylor's guitar is cleaner than his forebears', and technically he even surpasses them, yet the anger and sorrow of the blues is evident in his playing.
This rare combination of qualities comes through especially well in a slow blues piece like his solo in "Dirty Pool," which still makes me shake my head in disbelief when I hear it, even after repeated listenings.
"Too Sorry" is a good example of how well Taylor does when he moves into Jimi Hendrix territory, while his rhythm work is the best I've heard from a lead guitarist since Vaughan; listen to "I Ain't Superstitious," "Born Under A Bad Sign" and the funky "Telephone Song" for proof of that.
It also helps that Taylor's drummer James Knowles is well in sync with him, while Ethan Farmer completely owns the deep end of the sound. Farmer's peppery bass lines in and "Floodin' in California" is the textbook way an electric blues bass should be. Overall, a taut little band.
Taylor's vocals certainly won't draw comparisons to the Wide-Brimmed-Hatted One, but they hold up quite well until it's time to cut. This is right up there on my list of the best blues guitar recordings of the last few decades. If you decide to listen to this album, prepare to be blown away.
Article properties: Melvin Taylor & The Slack Band: Dirty Pool (LP. 180g Vinyl. Ltd.)