Cassie Taylor & the Soul Calvary
8 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday at the Rum Boogie Café, 182 Beale St. Cover: $3. For more information, call 901-528-0150, or visit rumboogie.com
Last weekend, 26-year-old Cassie Taylor found herself in a position a musical artist of any age would envy: jamming on bass on stage alongside acclaimed musicians Chuck Campbell of sacred steel greats The Campbell Brothers, George Porter Jr. of New Orleans legends The Meters, and her father, 11-time Blues Music Award nominee Otis Taylor.
"It was amazing," Taylor says of her appearance at her father's Trance Blues Jam Festival in her native Boulder, Colo. "The funny thing is I don't hang out with a lot of other 25-year-old musicians. I have always been hanging out with people who are 40, 50 or 60, so I'm just playing catch-up to them. They've already been touring for 20 years, and I'm like, I've only been doing this two years on my own and before that eight years with my dad. So I feel like I'm always behind."
But she's catching up. After an adolescence spent as a sideman, in recent years, Taylor, who performs a three-night engagement with her trio next week at Beale Street's Rum Boogie Café, has emerged from the shadows. Last year, she teamed with fellow young female blues artists Samantha Fish and Dani Wilde in the super group Girls With Guitars, releasing a self-titled album and playing more than 200 dates.
This summer saw the U.S. release of Taylor's first solo record, Blue, behind which she has already toured Europe twice as well as stretches of the American South and Midwest.
Taylor attributes her rapid development to the accelerated education given her by her father, a Chicago native who over a dozen albums has forged a reputation for unflinchingly modern lyrics and music that daringly reinterprets blues traditions. When Cassie was just 16, Otis Taylor, who had been obsessed with his oldest daughter becoming a bassist ever since he heard her play "Hey Joe" on the instrument a few years earlier, dragooned her into his band, where she remained for eight years.
"When you're 16, the most important thing is who's going to prom with whom not where are you going to tour internationally with your dad's band," she says. "That is über-lame. I probably hated it at the time, but when I look at it in my life now, I was so lucky."
Nevertheless, by 2009, Taylor was burned out. She had quit her father's band and was working on demo recordings that were going nowhere. Needing a change in scenery, she moved to Memphis with her boyfriend at the time, intending to step back entirely from music. She got a job at a Germantown clothing store, started to model, and began to study fashion design, an interest that she developed last year into starting her own company, Moorehead Apparel.
But she couldn't get away from music. A member of the Blues Foundation board of directors, her circle of friends was understandably dominated by musicians, including such local blues stalwarts as Victor Wainwright and, most influentially, Bill Gibson.
"He literally dragged me to every jam I could think of," Taylor says. "I really want to say he's the one responsible for me going back to music because he just wouldn't let me not. It was because of him that I met all those wonderful musicians on Beale Street and really got immersed back into the whole thing."
Rededicated to music, Taylor threw herself into her craft, cutting Girls With Guitars and Blue almost simultaneously in late 2010.
Taylor has a much heavier hand in her next record. Working from her new home base outside of Kansas City, Mo. — where she is set to wed road manager Chuck Haren later this month — she recently finished final mixes for her sophomore album.
"I would say I'm not really like my father at all," Taylor says. "I think the best thing is he showed me what music can do, and now I get to tell my story."