First impression: What an odd record. Two versions of “Hey Joe,” each over 7 minutes long + 4 instrumental cuts + four story songs. It’s the arrangement of the album that makes it unique among Otis’ 14 releases; the story songs mixed with instrumental interludes, glued by Hey Joe, done in contrasting “voices” / personalities… designed and arranged to be heard in order, in one sitting. It’s the beginning to end listen that’s important here – a single piece of work.
“Hey Joe” has been recorded and released by over 400 artists since it first came out in 1967 by the Leaves (and by countless millions of lesser named artists no doubt). Otis himself recorded it with his daughter Cassie for the album Recapturing the Banjo (2008). Covering it twice on the same album? Wow, that takes balls. If the memory of the song is framed by Hendrix, Otis stands right next in line as the personification of the emotional intensity of the story – and of the impact of decisions we make in our lives.
“Red Meat” and “Peggy Lee” will likely be the most played cuts from “Hey Joe Opus Red Meat” at non-comm radio around the state. As part of the whole the songs help make the album virtually impossible to categorize simply, jumping across Americana-country, psychedelic rock, jazz, blues, and folk. Otis calls what he does Trance Blues, and he promotes the Trance Blues Festival. This singular piece moves Otis far closer to composer/arranger than traditional bluesman.
Guests include Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, The Dead, Allman Brothers Band), Billy Nerschi (String Cheese Incident), singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim and guitarist Daniel Sproul (the Black Crowes, Warren Haynes).