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Guitar hero

Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band
Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band
By Melvin Taylor & the Slack Band

Evidence Music: 1995

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This review first appeared in the December 8, 1995 issue of the North County Times.

Melvin Taylor may be the best guitarist you've never heard of. He's in his mid-30s, but this is only his third album – and the first he's recorded in a decade.

What sets Taylor apart isn't his ability to play blistering fast solos – although he can do that with the best – nor to bend notes a la Hendrix (even though his cover of "Voodoo Chile" is every bit as good as Stevie Ray Vaughan's).

No, what sets Taylor apart is that he can do both of those and more. His Wes Montgomery-esque version of the old surf rock classic "Tequila" shows versatility, imagination and taste in equal helpings. And how many guitarists can play hard blues and sophisticated jazz in equal measure?

His original compositions are mostly straight-ahead blues; his solos and leads reminiscent of both B.B. King and Buddy Guy (and on a similar plateau). On covers of songs like Larry Davis' "Texas Flood" (made famous by Vaughan), Otis Rush's "All Your Loving" and T-Bone Walker's "T-Bone Shuffle," Taylor takes the basic theme in a reworks it a dozen different ways, finally working his way back to where he started – and leaving the listener exhausted from trying to keep up with the flood of ideas Taylor throws out of his guitar.