Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat (Trance Blues Festival)

Otis Taylor

Released February 27, 2015

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review






Award-winning storyteller, shaman and musical visionary Otis Taylor’s live performances are like fireworks – kaleidoscopic, riveting, explosive and wildly entertaining. And touring behind his new album Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, this legendary presence brings those qualities to new heights. The rich compelling song cycle, which Taylor is presenting in full on stage, is a mesmerizing modern masterpiece that employs the classic hit made famous by the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a foundation for spinning a hypnotic web about, as Taylor relates, “decisions and their consequences, and how those outcomes can change our lives, the lives of our families and the lives of people you don’t even know.”

 With a structure and scope similar to Pink Floyd’s epic Wish You Were Here, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat enshrines Taylor’s heralded “trance blues” sound — delivered with virtuosic fire by his five-piece band – within a storyline that limns the complexities, truths, conflicts and hopes that color the human soul. The original numbers include the driving “The Heart is a Muscle” and the swirling aural powerhouse “Cold At Midnight,” as well as instrumental passages in which Taylor and his band work sonic magic. And, of course, Taylor remains at the music’s fore, his commanding baritone voice and unique approach to banjo and guitar illuminating Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat’s emotional landscape.

Taylor has received an impressive 16 Blues Music Award nominations and won twice. His previous 13 albums have earned three DownBeat readers’ poll awards plus two of the magazine’s Critics Choice honors, and Taylor was awarded France’s prestigious Académie Charles Cros after two earlier nominations, winning the Grand Prix du Disc for Blues. His music has appeared in the Hollywood blockbuster Public Enemy, starring Johnny Depp, and in the Mark Wahlberg vehicle Shooter. He was also a fellow in the Sundance Institute’s Film Music Program. The prolific blues guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and singer was born in Chicago and raised in Colorado, which he still calls home. He began playing music in the sixties, but quit the business in 1977, to raise a family, and became an antique dealer. He returned to recording and performing in the late nineties, and, on albums like “Blue-Eyed Monster,” “When Negros Walked the Earth,” and “White African,” he takes on subjects like crime, homelessness, history, and race with his smoky voice and intricate and versatile playing. His latest and fourteenth release, “Hey Joe Opus,” is a psychedelic tour de force built around “Hey Joe,” the Billy Roberts-penned single made famous by Jimi Hendrix.
The New Yorker

Track Listing:

1. Hey Joe [Version A] (Billy Roberts) 07:38

2. Sunday Morning [Version A] (Otis Taylor) 06:45

3. The Heart is a Muscle (Used for the Blues) (Otis Taylor) 04:08

4. Red Meat (Otis Taylor) 04:17

5. Peggy Lee (Otis Taylor) 04:18

6. They Wore Blue (Otis Taylor) 03:33

7. Hey Joe [Version B] (Billy Roberts) 07:38

8. Sunday Morning [Version B] (Otis Taylor) 01:50

9. Cold at Midnight (Otis Taylor) 04:28

10. Sunday Morning [Version C] (Otis Taylor) 03:34


Otis Taylor: vocals, guitar

Anne Harris: violin

Todd Edmunds: bass

Larry Thompson: drums

Taylor Scott: guitar (1, 2, 7, 10)

Bill Nershi: guitar (5)

Daniel Sproul: guitar (7, 9)

Warren Haynes: guitar (1, 2, 3)

Ron Miles: cornet (1, 6, 8, 10)

David Moore: banjo (5, 7, 8), piano (5)

Langhorne Slim: backup vocals (1, 5), lead vocal, acoustic guitar (7)

Steve Vidaic: organ (7, 8, 10)

Gus Skinas, Moog synthesizer (7, 9, 10)

Recorded at Immersive Studios, Bouler, Colorado

Produced by Otis Taylor

Associate Producer: Joe Kessler

Engineered and Mixed by Mike Yach

Mastered by David Glasser

Photogtaphy by Evan Semón

Design by David Levine Design


Otis Taylor, with an outlier’s sense of blues-rock power, inhabits his own musical universe. What he calls “trance blues” has been his signature for 14 albums now. He became active in blues in the ’60s, then became an antiques dealer before returning to music nationally in the mid-1990s. Here, he goes looking for inspiration in the darkness and chiaroscuro of original songs and a cover. He always finds it. “Hey Joe,” a tune about infidelity and murder identified with Jimi Hendrix, has been lodged in his cerebral cortex for many years, and here two idiosyncratic adaptations serve as the fulcrum of a 10-song suite best experienced in one uninterrupted listen. The tension and menace in “Hey Joe” fascinates him. So does, throughout the album, deconstructing conventional assumptions about race, gender, love, marriage and human nature. Taylor the provocateur ponders cause and effect, choices and consequences, and challenges us to reflect on our own insecurities and prejudices. The guitars of Taylor, Taylor Scott and special guest Warren Haynes take the instrumental “Sunday Morning (A)” to a fantastic place beyond time and space, where psychedelic-era Pink Floyd and Steve Hillage-era Gong hang out with Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, with none other than Miles Davis stopping by. Taylor sings the lowdown blues “The Heart Is A Muscle (Used For The Blues)” to a pumping beat. On no-vocals-required “They Wore Blue,” his phased, toiling guitar speaks volumes, and Ron Miles’ cornet carries a somber quality, as if playing “Taps.” Certainly not a glutton for dread, Taylor often props up his voice with compassion and faith in mankind, as on a Skip James-esque song concerning a transgender person, “Peggy Lee.”

Frank-John Hadley (DownBeat)