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