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Monday, May 4, 2015
OUT TOMORROW (5/5): Otis Taylor's 'Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat' features guests Warren Haynes, Langhorne Slim, String Cheese Incident
ROOTS MUSIC VISIONARY OTIS TAYLOR CREATES
PSYCHEDELIC ALBUM AND DEBUTS HIS TRANCE BLUES FESTIVAL
Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat seamlessly blends hypnotic songs
and instrumentals; features guests Warren Haynes, Langhorne Slim and
String Cheese Incident’s Bill Nershi, out May 5
BOULDER, Colo. —
Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat, the new album from visionary
roots music songwriter and bandleader Otis
Taylor, is a psychedelic masterpiece. Blending his uniquely poetic
songwriting and the compelling musical approach that he calls “trance blues,”
the recording — due on May 5, 2015 on Taylor’s new
Trance Blues Festival label — cuts to the core of the human
spirit with its mix of vocal and instrumental performances, letting its hypnotic
sound as well as Taylor’s lyrics tell its story.
explains that his 14th album is “about decisions and their consequences. It’s
about how decisions and the actions that result can change our lives, the lives
of our families and the lives of people we don’t even know. Sometimes you win in
life; sometimes you lose. You want the outcome of your decisions to be good, but
sometimes its bad. And that’s when you don’t eat the meat. The meat eats
Taylor, he’s found a unique way of expressing those ideas in a grand work. The
songs on Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat comprise a suite in 10
parts, designed to be heard as a complete recording, with the classic song of
decisions and their consequences “Hey Joe” as its overarching theme. That
number, made famous as the debut single from the Jimi Hendrix Experience
in 1966, was written by folk artist Billy Roberts and
has intrigued Taylor and been part of his live concerts for two decades.
In a gambit
that recalls Pink Floyd’s use of recurring musical themes on
their enduring multi-platinum album Wish You Were Here,
“Hey Joe” appears on Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat twice. The
first version, which starts the album, features Gov’t Mule
and Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes.
The second features Langhorne Slim on backing vocals. Haynes
also plays on the first of three appearances of the Taylor composition “Sunday
Morning,” which follows. His bold guitar tones mesh perfectly with Taylor’s
sonic tapestry as both songs set the tone for the album. The recurring motifs in
“Sunday Morning” are especially striking, drawing on powerful, single-chord
rhythms and the interplay of Taylor band members Todd Edmunds
on bass, guitarist Taylor Scott, drummer Larry
Thompson and violinist Anne Harris, who often plays
melodic and textural foil to Taylor’s idiosyncratic, mesmerizing guitar. They’re
joined by keyboardists Gus Skinas and Steve
Vidaic, cornetist Ron Miles, banjo player
David Moore and, on “Peggy Lee,” a song about a man undergoing
a sex change, String Cheese Incident guitarist Bill
Nershi. Together they bring Taylor’s unfailingly brilliant ideas to
introduces four more new Taylor songs. “The Heart Is a Muscle” is a driving tune
about the complexities of love and “Cold at Midnight” mixes loneliness and
infidelity into Taylor’s potent aural swirl. There’s also “Red Meat,” driven by
Taylor playing his signature model Santa Cruz acoustic guitar,
and the elegant instrumental “They Wore Blue,” which transitions the album into
its second half.
trying to find something different to do with each album,” says Taylor. “It gets
harder with each one I make, but I really enjoy the idea of challenging myself
to find new ways to tell stories and make art.” His previous album, 2013’s
My World Is Gone, explored the struggles of Native
Americans and enlisted the virtuoso guitar of Indigenous frontman Mato
Nanji, who is a member of the Nakota Nation.
been pursuing his own singular musical vision — a fusion of the primal hum of
raw, primitive blues and contemporary, free-ranging expressionism — since the
1960s, when the banjoist, guitarist, bassist and harmonica player first toured
the U.S. and Europe with a variety of blues-based bands including
Zephyr, for whom Taylor played bass, and G&O Short
Line, which included legendary guitarist Tommy Bolin.
the music business in 1977 to pursue dealing in art and antiques, and to raise a
family. (His daughter Cassie has appeared on many of his
recordings singing and playing bass, and today is a recording artist in her own
right.) He also pursued his passion for bicycle racing, as a coach. During the
’90s, Taylor was drawn back into music making by friends in the Boulder area. By
1996 and the arrival of his debut album Blue-Eyed Monster, he was
performing once again. With the release of his next two discs, When
Negroes Walked the Earthand White African,
Taylor began to emerge as a singular voice in the American roots scene,
acclaimed here and abroad for his riveting music and his unflinching honesty in
writing about racism, struggle, freedom, heritage and the complications of human
To date he
has received 16 Blues Music Award (BMA) nominations.
White African captured a BMA for best debut album.
Taylor is also nominated regularly as an instrumentalist for his banjo playing,
and won a Blues Music Award for his original style in 2009,
following the release of Recapturing the Banjo, an album
that examined the instrument’s deep African roots. His albums Double
V, Definition of a Circle and Recapturing the
Banjo all won DownBeat’s Best
Blues CD award in 2005, 2007 and 2008, respectively. He also took the
magazine’s Critic’s Choice Award for Best Blues Album
for 2003’s Truth Is Not Fiction. And Taylor has
been nominated two times for the prestigious Académie Charles Cros award in
France, winning the Grand Prix du Disc for Blues in 2012. Three
years ago, Contraband — his 12th album — took theDownBeat Critics’ Choice award again for
Blues Album of the Year.
Taylor’s Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs was unveiled the
same week that two of his tunes appeared in the Hollywood blockbuster
Public Enemy, directed by Michael Mann
and starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
Previously his music had appeared in the 2007 Mark Wahlberg
vehicle Shooter. And in 2000 Taylor was a fellow in the
Sundance Institute’s Film Music Program.
Taylor began his Trance Blues Festival, which gives his new
label its name, in Boulder, Colorado. The annual event brings a broad cast of
professional and amateur musicians together for three days of performances, jams
and workshops. This year’s Trance Blues Festival will be held at the
eTown Theater in Boulder on November 7.
“Music is not
a spectator sport,” he observes. “In a world where there is a lot of
misunderstanding, music can help people communicate and break down barriers, and
really start to see each other for who they are.”
also lend perspective, thanks to the spare and insightful lyrics and elemental
music that’s always at the core of his albums, including Hey Joe
Opus/Red Meat. “My music,” says Taylor, “is always about the truth.
People care about the truth, because the truth is important. And I want people
to care about my songs, because I push myself very hard to create each album and
make it the best that I possibly can. My albums are my legacy, and I want them