Ebo Taylor - Appia Kwa Bridge
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Ebo Taylor
Appia Kwa Bridge
Strut Records

...in which the success of Taylor’s first international release as well as a recent compilation of his 70s-era recordings guarantee a second new effort, just as good, if not better than said global debut, 'Love and Death' in 2010.

The guitarist/writer/vocalist once again teams up with members of Germany’s Afro-beat Academy, Kwame Yeboah, son of the legendary SK Yeboah, on keys, plus occasional support from first drummer of afro-funk, Tony Allen, and the percussion of another Africa 70 member, Pax Nicholas, whose sole LP of choked, razor-sharp funk also recently received the reissue treatment. There’s no attempt to gain any distance from the styles Taylor has been immersing himself in for 40 plus years; it’s merely been an act of patiently waiting for a second round of recognition, something for which he can thank European DJs with record labels and apparently deep pockets. Appia Kwa Bridge opens with the urgent swagger of “Ayesama,” a victory song for the Fante Akans. Horns punch while percussion locks in and struts. Several such tunes follow before Taylor plays a raw, solo, old-school highlife track, ‘Yaa Amponsah,” first recorded in the 1920s. Here, the tone is palm-wine playful as Taylor praises a woman for her beauty. In fact, this is one of two solo tunes on the record. The second was written for Taylor’s recently deceased wife of many years. “Barrima” is raw; Taylor’s acoustic guitar picking sounds as if he is only barely able to choke the strings, the notes reluctant to form. It is a typical Ghanaian minor-key melody that shows up on so many recordings from the country, from classic Alex Konadu to Vis a Vis. Yet here, the sorrow is so personal as to allow Taylor to own the groove.

It is the characteristic Ghanaian Afro-funk, which Taylor arguably developed, that dominates six of the eight tracks, a music that expresses equal parts joy and sorrow; “Nsu Na Kwan” is an excellent case in point. Both the chorus and the horn lines are rapturous and sad, as Taylor sings about rivers in general and his hometown of Salt Pond in particular. Taylor has lived long enough to ensure that contemporary Afro-beat is placed back into the hands of actual Africans, and he does it without ever sounding forced or contrived. The man is now 76, seemingly in fine health, and in full possession of voice and guitar skills. Here’s hoping he keeps spitting out records as predictably wonderful as this one for years to come. - Bruce Miller

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