JOE LOUIS WALKER
Hornet's Nest, All I Wanted To Do, As The Sun Goes Down, Stick A Fork In Me, Don't Let Go, Love Enough, Ramblin' Soul, Ride On Baby, Soul City, I'm Gonna Walk Outside, Not In Kansas Anymore, Keep The Faith.
JLW has been making strong, dependable contemporary blues albums for nigh on thirty years, turning them out at an average of (almost) one a year for a variety of labels and dependably delivering the goods each and every time. Indeed, if he has a clunker resting somewhere in his back catalogue, it must have passed me by as I can't think of any.
Since joining forces with Alligator a couple of years back however he seems positively re-energised. His label debut Hellfire (ALCD4945) in 2012 teamed him up with Tom Hambridge, song-writer, producer and drummer to the stars (most notably Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi and George Thorogood). This gave him the ideal platform and support to show to best effect his strong soulful singing and always inventive and punchy guitar.
His second album for the label re-acquaints Walker with Hambridge and the same musicians as previously. Not surprisingly, the results are just as good as, if not actually better than, on Hellfire, featuring as it does a strong set of mostly original songs co-written between Walker, Hambridge and song-writer Richard Fleming.
The title track is a well-chosen opener to the album, providing a statement of intent that blues, rock, soul and funk are all on the agenda here. This combines the lot in a thrilling display of power, control and assurance, led by Walker's marvellous singing and guitar riffery guaranteed to thrill. This high-octane start continues onto the next track, All I Wanted To Do, which also adds some splendid work from the Muscle Shoals Horn Section. After that, there is the reflective blues of As The Sun Goes Down, the tub-thumping blues rocker Stick A Fork In Me which, as the title might suggest, features an enjoyably batty lyric. Joe's gospel roots appear in his vocals on the engaging Don't Let Go, which also features excellent vocal back-up.
Joe's much-vaunted slide guitar playing is featured sparingly on the album but does appear to stunning effect on the traditional blues stylings of Love Enough and the back-to-the delta I'm Gonna Walk Outside. Guitar-wise, the guy is so damn talented and flexible that elsewhere he comes across as a modern-day Jimi Hendrix overlaying some astral guitar playing over the funky Soul City. And it is not just his guitar-playing that evidences a wide range of styles at his command; his singing is equally adept at moving from the blues to the near-hard rock outing of We're Not In Kansas Anymore and fully convincing on the light-rocking cover of Jagger and Richards Ride On, Baby, where he sounds not unlike John Hiatt (a very good thing indeed!). The closing Keep The Faith perhaps tops the lot as the album's best vocal performance, an impassioned Bobby Womack-style after-hours soul-baring song that wraps the album up nicely.
Joe was inducted into the Blue Hall Of Fame in 2013. The evidence as to why is all here!
Review Date: Febraury 2014