Brother Theotis Taylor

26/07/2020Mississippi Records Releases Album Of Intimate Home Recordings By Eponymous Spiritual Gospel Singer And Piano Player

Just a few weeks after bringing you Kahil El'Zabar and David Murray's "Spirit Groove" we return to Chicago, Illinois, home to the small Mississippi Records imprint, originally founded by Eric Isaacson in Portland, Oregon, as a record store back in 2003 and now run by musician Gordon Ashworth and filmmaker Cyrus Moussavi. Initially focussing on "esoteric" rarities ranging from "African acoustic guitar music, to 1920's - 30's country blues or deep gospel," the label quickly expanded "into almost every genre including soul, psych rock, Indian ragas, and classical music" and by 2018 had "released over 230 records and 130 cassettes," Isaacson described in an interview with Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

Just recently, Mississippi Records put out a record by "92-year-old spiritual singer and piano player" Brother Theotis Taylor that we needed to include here, seeing as we hadn't yet covered gospel, blues or spiritual soul as a genre on Greedy and we felt that the stunning authenticity and story of this release would make it an invaluable addition to our wide-ranging catalogue of choice musical recommendations. Hailing from the small city of Fitzgerald, Georgia, Brother Theotis Taylor is "known throughout South Georgia and beyond for his powerful voice and heavenly falsetto," the release notes read. "Taylor has been dedicated to spreading the gospel through continuing the spiritual and musical legacies of his father and grandfather," writes John Morrison on Bandcamp.

What's particularly interesting about this release, is that Brother Theotis Taylor didn't actually release that much music. He did, however, regularly record himself at the piano in his own home, when feeling thoroughly "inspired by a higher power, often fasting and praying for days before recording," thus creating a "vast archive" of self-recorded music: "The music just comes down on you," he says. "You always have your machine where you can catch everything. 'Cause what you can catch today you can't remember tomorrow." 

Now, for the first time ever, these "intimate home recordings" have been digitised and released on Mississippi Records. The digital release comes with four bonus tracks as well as an 8-page booklet with an interview and archival photos. "[When I hear this music] I pick up the same spirit that I did it in. And you see me cryin',"  said Brother Taylor, when revisiting these reel-to-reel recordings. "It made me feel good 'cause I know I did it and I did it well. And I want to see it get out, because if it made me feel good, it make somebody else feel good. Right? This is spiritual music."

Indeed, these recordings have a distinct quality of sound that is utterly stirring. Coming from a place of deep emotion, reflection, devotion and sincerity and despite the reduced setup, Brother Theotis Taylor's voice is groundbreaking to say the least, carrying innumerable shades and nuances to aid his spirited, soulful narration. You can stream/buy the full release below. Also make sure you check out the Mississippi Records Bandcamp page to browse their extensive catalogue.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom