Otis Taylor, “Cold at Midnight” from Hey Joe Opus / Red Meat (2015): One Track Mind

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Otis Taylor catches a portentious, shiver-inducing groove to begin “Cold at Midnight,” and things just get darker still thanks to the lonesome entrance of cornetist Ron Miles. Taylor hasn’t said a word yet, hasn’t even begun to weave his particular brand of brutally honest storytelling, and already a roiling sense of twilit expectancy surrounds him.

He gruffly offers the title, and again. Then he waits, as the temperature continues to dive. He waits and he waits for a long-lost lover, until the waiting itself has become another kind of pain. Suddenly, Taylor’s main character stands amid a storm of brokenhearted aloneness, of dangerous jealousy, or sweeping worry.

And then the winds begin to pick up, pushed along by Miles’ insistent asides. “Cold at Midnight” (our first taste of Otis Taylor’s forthcoming Hey Joe Opus / Red Meat) is then transformed into another classic Taylor moment of rangy complexity. As his emotions become hopelessly tangled, so does this song. It could be called jazz, because of its locomotive momentum — or blues, because of Taylor’s devastating lament. Whatever it is, Otis Taylor’s feverishly relentless “Cold at Midnight” never slows, never stops.

The results provide a white-knuckle ride into the very heart of worry, and a terrific introduction to Otis Taylor’s first-ever release on his own Trace Blues Festival label, after spending the last decade or so with Concord/Telarc. Hey Joe Opus / Red Meat, due on May 5, 2015, features guest appearances by Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule), Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident), Langhorne Slim and Daniel Sproul.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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