Otis Taylor's 14th album, Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat is an interesting mix of trippy, psychedelic sounds and traditional blues. The 10 songs flow into one another, as if one long song, but never seem long and work individually. "Hey Joe" appears twice and is the main theme of the record, while Taylor's original, "Sunday Morning appears in three different forms, all distinctly different, yet tied together. It's a unique mix, but it works.
The first "Hey Joe" uses a three-guitar attack, including Taylor, Warren Haynes, and Langhorne Slim with violin courtesy of Todd Edmunds and cornet from Taylor Scott. It is at once traditional blues, but with an increasingly dreamy feel as the song progresses. The track flows into the first rendition of "Sunday Morning," a droning instrumental with nimble guitar and cornet lines and patches of guitar bathed in echo.
"The Heart is a Muscle (Used for the Blues)" finds a thumping bass line, replicating a heartbeat over an acoustic guitar backdrop. Taylor gives a soulful vocal over the sparse, yet effective, song. "Red Meat," the second half of the title track is a folky number that ruminates on how people sometimes win or lose in life and in love. Taylor offers a delicate acoustic guitar on this laid-back track.
"Peggy Lee" is a bouncy number featuring guitars and banjo that builds in intensity throughout. It tackles the heavy subject matter of a man having a sex change operation and Taylor gives a great vocal. "They Wore Blue" is an instrumental that uses the "Hey Joe" theme to perfection, building on the dreamy feel of the first "Hey Joe" and leading directly into the second version, a nearly eight-minute epic with shared vocals by Slim. It's fascinating how Taylor manages to take this song and "Sunday Morning" and construct an entire album around both.
The intense "Cold At Midnight" is sandwiched in between the final two "Sunday Mornings." Taylor's vocals echo the frustration of the song's subject matter, a man who believes his woman has left him to go to Mexico. Cornet lines punctuate the trancelike song, which features a driving guitar riff from Taylor. Wow.
Hey Joe Opus/Red Meat takes the listener on a journey using themes from two songs. While its themes are repeated, the album is never repetitive and though it is meant to be listened to in one sitting, it never seems long or self-indulgent. It's a challenging record and makes for an exciting listen.