Review: Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest

Posted on: Friday, Apr 11, 2014

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Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest

(Alligator Records: ALCD 4959)

Firmly established as one of the great bluesmen of the modern era, Joe Louis Walker brings more of his incendiary guitar work to his second release on Alligator Records, the recently-released “Hornet’s Nest”, a thrilling follow-up to his label debut, 2012’s “Hellfire”, again produced by the much in-demand Tom Hambridge, who also wrote and arranged the songs with Walker as well as contributing drums, tambourine, backing vocals and percussion!

The rest of a sparkling core band are the vastly experienced Reese Wynans (piano, Wurlitzer and Hammond B-3 organ), Rob McNelley (guitar) and Tommy MacDonald (bass), with the Muscle Shoals Horn section of Charles Rose (trombone), Jim Horn (saxophone) and Vinnie Ciesielski (trumpet) guesting on one cut; with the vocal trio of Ray Walker, Curtis Young and Michael Black contributing to two tracks.

As well as his stinging guitar attack Joe Louis Walker possesses a quite superb voice, with a most soulful edge, which is evident on the nine new songs and three covers, with the music off to an up-tempo start on the title cut, “Hornet’s Nest” . . . although quite rocky, it also has a funky guitar motif which carries it along; next up is the soulful groove of “All I Wanted To Do”, which features the afore-mentioned Muscle Shoals Horn section and also fine work from Reese Wynans Hammond B-3.

The pace is taken down on the laid-back “As The Sun Goes Down”, a bluesy strut with plenty of incisive guitar work from Walker and nicely pushed along from the rhythm section of Tom Hambridge and Tommy McDonald; the ‘roadhouse’ rocker “Stick A Fork In Me” takes the tempo back up and it fairly roars along, again with plenty of Joe’s burning guitar. “Don’t Let Go” is a curios hybrid of a gospel and rock ‘n’ roll tune – the gospel feel coming from the fine backing vocals of Messrs Walker, Young and Black.

The funky rocker “Ramblin’ Soul” is another stand-out, and it is followed by a Jagger & Richards cover in the form of “Ride On, Baby” . . . with some sparkling piano from Reese Wynans, on this tune hailing from “Aftermath”, way back in 1965. “Soul City” rocks hard, with some wailing guitar leads from Walker and an extended workout for his wah-wah pedal!

Him and the band get into a low down blues groove for “I’m Gonna Walk Outside”, with its slide-dominated guitar and Wynans tinkling ivories. This fine recommended release ends in nice style with more gospel and soul leanings on the lovely “Keep The Faith”, again featuring the trio of backing vocalists, but also highlighting Walker’s super voice and yes . . . more stunning Hammond B-3 from Reese Wynans.

Definitely another winner from one of the most essential modern bluesmen around!

GRAHAME RHODES

www.joelouiswalker.com

www.alligator.com

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