Demetria Taylor – Bad Girl (2011)

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Demetria Taylor comes by her love of mid-century Chicago blues honestly: She’s the daughter of Eddie Taylor, who rose to fame as a rhythm guitarist with Jimmy Reed and had a minor hit of his own in 1955 with “Bad Boy.”

So, that’s where she starts on this, her recording debut for Chicago’s Delmark Records. There are tips of the hat to her father’s legacy, both as a solo artist and alongside Reed, and proper respect given to genre legends like Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Luther Allison and Koko Taylor. That doesn’t make this gravel-road gauntlet of milestones any easier to navigate, though. It takes quite the talent, and quite the band, to make a set list like this appear to be anything other than warmed-over blues boilerplate.

Demetria Taylor and Co. are that group.

Not to say she outdoes the originals; but Taylor quickly establishes her own voice, even in sometimes overly familiar surroundings. That starts with her fun recasting of a Muddy Waters favorite with “I’m a Woman” — deliciously proclaiming “you know, I’m an earth shaker!” Nothing new for fans of Koko Taylor, of course. And it’s not the last time Demetria tangles with her idol Koko’s towering presence.

She later attempts to scale the menacing sexuality of “Wang Dang Doogle,” then rumbles through a bed-frame rattling version of Koko’s “Voodoo Woman” — both to great effect. (Tenor man Eddie Shaw, who appears on five of the 12 tracks here, is particularly effecting on the latter.)

Throughout, though still in her late 30s, Demetria sings with a rich, meat-off-the-bone tanginess, even if it can’t approach the whiskey-dried roughness that made Koko such a mythical figure. In time, however, there’s no reason to believe Demetria couldn’t assume Koko’s mantel. This is a talent just getting started.

Elsewhere, Demetria’s update of Magic Sam’s “All Your Love” was particularly interesting, since Taylor so boldly replicates the brazen hunger associated with the lyric — sounding not like a desperate ex-lover, but like a woman fully in charge of her carnal desires. Demetria gives a tip of the hat to next-gen blues contributors with a stinging rendition of Luther Allison’s “Cherry Red Wine,” a track that features this series of memorable asides from the twin guitars of brother Eddie Taylor Jr. and Shun “Shogun of the Blues” Kikuta. Taylor also brings soul-blues belter Artie “Blues Boy” White’s “When You Leave, Don’t Take Nothing” to a memorable simmer. “Little Red Rooster,” the Willie Dixon/Howlin’ Wolf standard, turns into an all-star affair — with Billy Branch guesting on harmonica along with vocalist Big Time Sarah, who lets loose with a series of yelps and barks.

Fans of her father will find a smart rewrite of his familiar 1955 in the title track, another of the four songs on Bad Girl that feature Branch. “Big Boss Man” also works as another tip of the hat to her dad, who helped shape the Jimmy Reed sound of the 1950s and ’60s. Branch is a revelation there, too, playing with a jagged fury as Demetria sings with brazen, frayed abandon.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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