When Taylor Wilkins of Austin heavy rock act Otis the Destroyer got invited to travel overseas with a local non-profit, Project ATX 6, he had to rethink his approach to music as a solo artist as that was required of the participants. Thus, Otis Wilkins was born out of solo tracks the singer and guitarist had already been playing around with. The music world is a better place for this project existing. While that sounds like gross hyperbole, once you hear this new track by Wilkins, “Shaker #42”, we think you’ll agree. The man has pipes, songwriting chops and the musical skill to pull off an effort that sounds like a throw-back, feel good rocker and contemporary rock music all at once. The feel-good vibes are just what the doctor ordered in this depressing Trump era.
Wilkins recorded the track with local musician Walker Lukens who has been quietly building an impressive book of production projects, including today’s premiere. The man has a way with words and music. His approach is always fresh, inventive and smart. For this song, the arrangement simple, a classic rock beat with emphatic, punctuating backing vocals by Wilkins’ equally talented wife Sara (Lowin, Golden Dawn Arkestra) and Jane Ellen Bryant, a local songstress who has been popping up everywhere lately. Add in Wilkins’ singular, rock guitar style that evokes heroes from the past like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, and you get a winner of a song.
From the catchy hook to the insistent bass line to the mind-imprinting guitar riffs, this song has legs. By that we mean it gets better with multiple listens, revealing layers of sound (courtesy of Lukens) and complexity that the listener may miss the first few plays. There is genius in those subtleties. They foreshadow the experience you’ll have listening to Otis Wilkins, he gets better with age like a fine wine versus the in-your-face ale of Otis the Destroyer. Both are fantastic, but Otis Wilkins gives the singer the opportunity to show off his vocal range and ability in a way that his heavier project doesn’t. It’s just another reminder Austinites live among some of the most underrated musicians in the country.
Photo credit: Kate Blaising