Otis – Eyes of the Sun
For anyone who read my review of Otis’ EP you know that these guys knocked me out when I first heard that disc. The first licks of the first song with Boone hollerin “You Ain’t Nothing But a Rattlesnake!” really knocked me on my ass; I simply wasn’t prepared for that. Well this time around, having spun both discs for several months now, I think I have a better grip on everything and hopefully this review comes across slightly more professional. I am still no expert on “the blues” and am apt to say something completely stupid, but at least I feel up to speed on Otis and what these guys are doing.
I took my time with this disc so that my review didn’t sound like a school girl talking about her new puppy, but damn, these guys make it difficult. They are simply impressive. For anyone worried about the sophomore jinx that can come with a second release, rest assured, these guys are the real deal. Boone’s voice IMO is still the defining element in this band. I just like it. Not sure how else to put it. It still sounds a little fangirlish when I read it out loud, but there it is. So now that I have wrecked any creditability I pretended to have we can get on with the review.
Quite simply it is good bluesy rock music. They have not just maintained that sound which initially set them apart, but have taken it and refined it with this second effort. The disc opens up with “Change” which immediately sets the tone and tempo of the entire record. “Blind Hawg” (video posted below) kicks it up a little more and is one of my favorite songs on the record. “Eyes of the Sun” comes along next and somewhere during this song is when you realize that they are not forcing it; these guys sound this way naturally. It’s not a trick of engineering or some clever mixing, they are not pretending to be something they are not, this is Otis and you either like it or you don’t. I do find “Eyes” and “Home” a little more laid back than the first two, and I guess this record as a whole has a more chilled attitude than the first one which is OK with me. “Shake You” is a bit of an exception to that note as, along with the first two songs, it kicks the pace back up a notch and is also where Boone’s voice really highlights that “Otis sound” for me. This song is what I think about when I talk about Otis. The guitar, the rhythm, and Boone screeching at me seems like every line should rip at his vocal chords, but it doesn’t, and he just keeps pumping on. The guitar here also spotlights Otis IMO. The way Boone and Steve pass back and forth while holding the integrity of the rhythm baffles me to no end; it is truly something special to listen to. On the complete other end of the spectrum the slower “Turn to Stone” might be my overall favorite from this disc. I say the feel of this disc seems to be a little more mellow than the EP, but I am not sure it is the tempo as much as it is just hypnotic at times. I think I said that about the first record too, but as I was better prepared this time I didn’t think they would get me with the same trick twice; maybe I was wrong.
“Washed My Hands” is also a favorite of mine here (can they all be my favorite?) but again I love Boone’s voice, I love the guitars intermingling back and forth, I love the story, I simply like it. This seems like a blues song to me. Same thing with “Loving Man”, which at this point I begin to question my mellow comment because both tunes are right back to the upbeat style where I am tapping the steering wheel and bobbing my head. I think I am left with the mellow feel because of how the record closes out with the instrumental “Relief In C”, “Chasing the Sun”, and “Let Your Love Shine” all in a row; again, almost mesmerizing.
So I am going to close out with the overall sound of the band rather than individual tunes because I find it remarkable as a non-blues guy that I like these guys as much as I do. I find this record to be an odd cross, somewhere between ZZ Top and Jeff Healey. I know Billy Gibbons is a big fan, and although I am not sure exactly how much (if any) influence he had on recording this record I find myself thinking of ZZ Top several times while spinning it. Boone’s voice is something all it’s own, and when he howls there is nothing I can compare it to, but at times on a few of the more laid back tunes I just find myself picturing two bearded guys from Texas spinning fuzzy guitars. Other times, when the guitars are speaking to me I imagine Healey sitting there with his rig on his lap bobbing his mullet around. I don’t know if it’s the tone of the guitar, I don’t know if it’s the notes, I just don’t know. What I do know is that I had not put a blues song in my playlist since Healey until these guys came along, and now I have several.
So, 3 ½ horns or 4 horns, again I am stuck in between, and again I am not sure it matters. This stuff is good and if you do not have this record you need to get it. I am still hoping to catch their show sometime soon because I HAVE to see this happen live.