Live Session: Colorado Blues Legend Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor exudes Colorado – tough as nails, a master on the guitar and banjo, and doesn’t ever back down. If you’ve seen him on any number of Colorado stages over the last several decades, you know he’s got a lot to express and a lot of ways to do so. For our recent Live Session, Otis comes at you from the Columbia Cemetery near his home in Boulder. 

The banjo-led song he chose, “Ten Million Slaves,” is part of the Songs For Change project, which is a partnership between The Colorado Sound and NPR Music. 

Different versions of “Ten Million Slaves” appear on Taylors’ 2001 album Respect The Dead and his 2008 album Recapturing The Banjo. The song was also featured on the soundtrack of Public Enemies, a crime drama released in 2009. 

Taylor closes our Live Session at about the 3:55 mark explaining the deep meaning of the song and its relevance to him today. “I’m 72, I’m sequestered in my home. I can’t come out because of my health problems. It kind of brings you back to this song,” he explains. 

Taylor, who was born in Chicago, grew up in Denver and immersed himself in the vibrant Harry-Tuft led folk scene before branching out on his own. He has amassed celebrated albums featuring electric guitar and banjo work, earning 12 Blues Music Awards and an induction in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in the process. With all that, his performance of “Ten Million Slaves” in the Columbia Cemetery might be his most poignant moment yet.