When you hear the nearly eight-minute long blues guitar epic of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, the opening track off Otis Taylor’s latest record Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, you’ll get just a taste of what you’re in for. And when the strings and horns kick in, adding an element of fantasy to this south western noir tale, the whole thing will explode like a vibrant sunset. A mix of old and new songs and cover songs, Taylor’s signature jam-heavy, psychedelic aesthetic feels fresher than ever. A fever dream of otherworldly and old west vibes, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat is spontaneous and exciting, but also clean and controlled. Everything is where it should be, but you don’t see any of it coming.
Taylor’s voice is low and smoky, never overly emotional, but still full of feeling. He sounds masculine and gritty, raw and authentic, free of any fancy production. Taylor is never in any rush with these songs, and he takes his sweet time with slow and steady beats laid underneath the electrifying guitars and his rich, deep rasp. He has that classic sounding blues voice – the kind you’d associate with the genre. Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat would make the ideal soundtrack for an epic journey, as its soundscapes evoke images like Pink Floyd playing in the desert, saturated colors and vast landscapes.
This record is dark as a whole, but it alternates between earthly and spacey sounds, sometimes embodying both simultaneously. Jam band devotees will really get into it for the meandering, trippy, spiritual aspects, while blues aficionados will appreciate the depth and layers. “The Heart is a Muscle”, one of Taylor’s new tracks, finds him at his best. Unselfconscious, sultry and smart, he captures the complexities of love, accented with sassy electric guitar notes between phrases.
“Sunday Morning” is an epic instrumental that uses horns to add dimension, and “Red Meat” is sweet and whimsical. “Sometimes you eat the steak/And sometimes the steak eats you,” Taylor sings, making a silly, but poignant metaphor for life and love through a song about red meat. And the banjo on “Peggy Lee” mixed with the mile-a-minute guitar picking makes it a quirky, but toney country song.
With guest appearances from guitarist Warren Haynes (Government Mule and Allman Brothers), and Langhorne Slim, to name a few, Taylor brings his retrospective blues-soul sound into the future. His fourteenth record, Taylor is a career blues man and he clearly ain’t lettin’ up anytime so Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat is energetic, cheeky and intelligent, the way great blues music should be.
Top shelf stuff from Otis. His sound crosses many genres. Would love to see him tour with a full band and production which can replicate this live.