This past February at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, a kid in Willie Nelson braids sat in with Los Lobos, playing a smattering of tunes and wowing the audience — and the legendary Lobos themselves — with soaring leads that evoked something between Duane Allman and Albert King. To the surprise of many in attendance, the young man was a 25-year-old Denver guitarist named Taylor Scott, who moved here four years ago from Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is slowly becoming a force as a singer-songwriter and bandleader.
“I’ve sat in with Los Lobos at least a dozen times in the last two years,” Scott tells Westword in a phone interview from a hotel room; he's on tour in New Orleans. “It’s cool because [David] Hidalgo is one of my favorite living singers, and those guys are just such great writers and such a great live band. That’s been a privilege, man.”
Scott, originally from St. Louis, handed Los Lobos multi-instrumentalist Steve Berlin some of his music during a chance meeting a few years ago, and Berlin — who has produced everyone from Faith No More to Deer Tick — subsequently called Scott and ended up producing All We Have, his latest album.
“It’s my first major release,” Scott says. “It’s sort of like a debut in a way. I’ve been recording since I was fifteen, but most of it’s not stuff I’d want anybody to find,” he jokes.
The lazy listener might hear a few moments of “Somebody Told Me,” which kicks off the twelve-track All We Have, and assume it’s another Warren Haynes-style blues-jam release, but by the song’s anthemic chorus, it’s clear All We Have will be a remarkable adventure. The album includes blues, alt-country, hard rock, a touch of what might be called “album alternative,” and a diverse, heavy groove Scott says he learned during his years touring the world as Colorado trance-bluesman Otis Taylor’s lead guitarist.
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“Otis has this thing with his music,“ Scott explains, “where there’s always this underlying groove happening, even on ballads or more quiet tunes, mellow tunes. There’s always this heavy rhythmic thing that’s very signature. That’s probably the strongest element I picked up on in those days that carries through my original music.
“Otis is a character. I originally went to that audition thinking it was a standard twelve-bar-blues thing, sort of Chicago style…and then I showed up and he’s doing this trance stuff, all this African influence and psychedelic stuff, so I failed the audition pretty badly [laughs]. But he called me for the gig, and I was plucked out of Cheyenne and landed in Paris and everywhere else, playing the guitar," Scott recalls. "I really appreciated his take on [blues], having an original voice and saying something that hasn’t already been said a million times and then bastardized a million more times.”
On All We Have, Scott clearly takes the sense of groove he honed while in Taylor’s band — which Scott joined on his twentieth birthday — and applies it to a diverse musical palette. “Curiosity,” for instance, sounds like Jason Isbell fronting Nathaniel Rateliff’s Night Sweats, while the bounce and social commentary of “Clearance Bin” — featuring a David Gilmour-esque solo — wouldn’t be out of place on a Tracy Chapman record. Scott says that his groove education with Taylor was parallel to the cultural education he received while on the road.
“We were doing Europe five, six times a year, so it was pretty wild, and I wouldn’t be who I am now as a person or as an artist or a writer if I hadn’t had those experiences. The travel is really important for developing a voice, at least as far as what I do and what I value, meeting all kinds of different people. Getting tossed into different cultures, sink-or-swim, has been really enlightening, and that experience led me to want to step out and do my own thing. It’s really exciting to just be doing my own thing full-time.”
Since he moved to Denver, Scott says, the local music scene has inspired and challenged him.
“At fourteen or fifteen, I knew pretty quick that this is what I wanted to pursue with my whole life, and you can’t really do that in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to a serious extent," he says. "I had been working with musicians and clubs in Denver while I was living in Cheyenne, so by the time I was maybe 21, my whole band was based in Denver, and I was driving three hours round trip from Cheyenne for rehearsals and gigs. It made sense proximity-wise to just head to Denver.
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“I’ve always liked the scene. It’s been great. I feel like the scene is pretty saturated right now, so it’s kind of taken a while to break in, but things are starting to feel really good. It’s such a diverse music scene, too. There’s a great jazz scene, blues, rock, obviously all the jam-grass, bluegrass and funk. For me, the diversity is really important for my music just artistically, so it’s cool to be part of a scene.”
Scott says he loves Howlin’ Wolf and Townes Van Zandt as much as he loves the Meters and punk rock, so being immersed in a music scene as thriving and limitless as Denver’s currently is has been a blessing and a comfort. He now has a management and publicity team on board, and says he’s poised to use the eclectic All We Have as a springboard for international success.
“Some people have told me, ‘You’ve gotta just pick one thing,’” Scott says. “I think branding-wise that made sense in 1980-something, but at this point, so many people are listening to so many different kinds of music because of how we share music now. I listen to so much different music, and I decided a few years ago that I’m not going to curb any of that just to have some sort of stylistic barrier. I just decided, ‘Fuck it; we’re going to put it all in there and make sure that there’s a consistency, a sound, a style.’ The response has been good. It’s an exciting time.”
Taylor Scott, with Cass Clayton, 9 p.m. Friday, April 26, Syntax Physic Opera, 554 South Broadway, $10.