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Review: Ampersand Blues Band 

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Christian Taylor and The Ampersand Blues Band
Ampersand Blues Band
GloryHole Records

Christian Taylor truly is a force to be reckoned with. For years, the Fountain Square native's matchless songwriting has mesmerized minds, whether it's with the Indiana rock and roll classic America Owns The Moon or his accompanying Homeschool crew. Taylor long ago established himself as one of the music community's wisest Jedis, a spellbinding dreamer whose boundless song craft remains ever-steady.

And now, a new direction. Taylor finds himself headed down a boulevard of bluesy grit and genuine whit with this Ampersand Blues Band cassette. Released via GloryHole Records, Ampersand Blues Band contains seven songs written and performed by Taylor, with large instrumental contributions from guitarist and composer Derek Johnson, who also produced and engineered the collection of songs at his JoHNsoNgs studio in Fountain Square.

Taylor and Johnson's collaborative relationship was notably marked by Musical Family Tree's first-ever EP in a Weekend release, part of a series started by the Indiana music nonprofit where combinations of local musicians are asked to make an EP in one weekend. (Here's our take on the release.) Jon Rogers, Musical Family Tree's Director, reflected fondly on Taylor's collaboration with Johnson and Cole Nicholas after the EP's completion, writing, "Christian Taylor is a dreamer, a mystic, an idea man who gets obsessed by sound, by tiny verbal phrases that pass through his mental net."

With Ampersand Blues Band, Taylor's mystic wisdom prevails once again, as the seasoned songwriter hands the reigns over to his bold imagination, combining creative forces with Johnson's professional expertise on this fantastic collection of blues tunes. For the few who don't know him, Taylor introduces himself on "Desert Reprise," singing, "I have been here for many a day, and I, I have seen many a thing / Please believe you me when I say, that I, I know a couple a thing." Taylor's short prayer for desert rain is quickly followed by "Dangling Want," a rampant rock tune drenched in blues crunch. "Pickin' my nose like a banjo," groans Taylor as he tears through the cassette's most torrent track. Returning to a rich hum on "BTW Biloxi," Taylor whips out his toy harmonica and calls upon the beautiful backing coos of Lisa Berlin (Hen, Everthus the Deadbeats, Jookabox). The blues train keeps on a'rollin' with "Sun @ Night" and "Back 2 the Beat," eventually slowing down for a finger-picking pit stop on "D D & B B.," featuring upright bass work from Nate Hammond.

Ampersand Blues Band concludes with an impressive piece of organically fashioned rock and roll, a concise little example of Taylor and Johnson's inventiveness. While recording the cassette's impressive closer, "Cryin' Unto Thee," Johnson and Taylor found themselves down a drum kit, so they decided to record percussion using what they had readily available to them: stomping feet, a broom, a music stand, a pair of boots. Paired with Taylor's powerful vocals and snarling guitar, the track's raw energy and imaginative build perfectly cap off this excellent cassette release.

Ampersand Blues Band's next live show will be an in-store performance on Thursday, May 8 at Indy CD & Vinyl with TV Mike & The Scarecrows.

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