Review: Joe Louis Walker – Between A Rock And The Blues

Posted on: Friday, Jan 22, 2010

Joe Louis Walker

JOE LOUIS WALKER

“Between A Rock And The Blues”

(Stony Plain Records: SPCD1345)

San Francisco bluesman Joe Louis Walker, now aged 60, has been releasing quality blues album since the mid 80s’, and this, his second release for the Canadian label, Stony Plain, finds him in top form – surrounded by the cream of musicians from producer Duke Robillard’s band, and in turn associated with Roomful Of Blues and Ronnie Earl.

The two cuts Walker produced himself sees the band made up of long-time associates – namely Kevin Eubanks (guitar), Henry Oden (bass), Ellis Eugene Blacknell Jr. (piano and organ) and Jeff Minnieweather (drums).

The title, “Between A Rock And The Blues” gives a clue to the fare on offer – from muscular rock-tinged songs to more traditional blues, and some soulful fare – kicking off with the high-energy rocker “I’m Tide” – plenty of snarling guitar leads and his fine voice to the fore; the following “Eyes Like A Cat” is a swinging blues, with sparkling piano from the great Bruce Katz and Carl Queforth and Doug James, respectively very fine on trombone and saxophone.

Walker’s own “Black Widow Spider” treads a soul-flavoured vibe, with the heavy riff of “If There’s A Heaven” changing the feel and direction instantly – definitely one with a rocky edge, but none the worse for it – with incendiary solo. The whole band swing in great style on Murali Coryell’s “Way Too Expensive”, with Joe Louis Walker’s guitar leads answering his vocal. The lengthy ballad “Hallways” – clocking in at seven minutes plus, is reminiscent of Irish blues rocker Gary Moore’s more laid back work – some beautiful mellow guitar and impassioned vocal.

Duke Robillard’s song “Tell Me Why” – a great mid-paced shuffle, sees both him and Walker on guitars and more sparkling tinkling of the ivories from Bruce Katz. The legendary Ray Charles classic “Blackjack” again allows all to stretch out – with, again, fine solos from Walker himself and Katz. “Big Fine Woman” is a funky workout, Walker on wah-wah guitar – with the song hitting a lovely groove.

The album closer is a delightful offering – the acoustic, lazy back-porch “Send You Back” – just Walker’s acoustic guitar and voice, with suitably tasteful harmonica from Sugar Ray Norcia – a very nice way to end a fine album, with if truth be known, a great track.

The full band, apart from the afore-mentioned, also features the rhythm section of Jesse Williams (electric and acoustic bass) and Mark Teixeira (drums and percussion).

GRAHAME RHODES

www.joelouiswalker.com

www.stonyplainrecords.com

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