Just when you get to thinking that it is a while since Joe Louis Walker
made an album, two come along at once. Hot on the heels of the acclaimed
"Guitar Brothers" album with Otis Grand, comes "In The Morning," Joe Louis
Walker's debut for the Telarc label.
The album opens with the first of four covers, Johnny McCrae's "Just About
To Lose Your Clown". The most immediate impression is that it sounds like
some of Robert Cray's early recordings, blending soul and blues and getting
a little bit funky. The vocals and guitar work are unmistakably Joe Louis
Walker's decade-long association with gospel group the Spiritual
Corinthians is reflected most strongly in a brace of tracks. The first is
the soulful "In The Morning." It is a simple, but highly effective tune,
where the real gospel feel comes mainly from the backing vocals of Andrea
Re. The other is the traditional gospel song "Where Jesus Leads," where the
band is stripped back to two guitars (electric and acoustic) and tambourine.
As well as gospel, Walker even ventures into discoesque territory on "Do
You Want To Be With Me." It starts out with a 1970's ring to it, at the
time when soul music was evolving into disco, and ends up with something
approaching the classic period of Chic. In between, however, the guitar
break is very much from the blues, which is more in keeping with most of
the rest of the album.
"If This Is Love (I'd Rather Have The Blues)" has some honky tonk piano
running through it, and most of the guitar work is influenced by country
pickers (like Chet Atkins). Some of the opening guitar phrases, however,
sound like the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown." Which neatly
brings us to the instrumental "2120 South Michigan Avenue," which pays
homage to (and was inspired by) Chess records. Fittingly enough, it was
written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The album then closes out with a
solo rendition of "Strangers In Our House," which Walker delivers in a
style reminiscent of the late, lamented John Lee Hooker.
"In The Morning" comes across as a sort of recapitulation of the career of
Joe Louis Walker. It has a fairly eclectic mix of tunes, reflecting the
different paths he has taken along the way. The music smoulders in places,
but without ever really catching fire. Although "In The Morning" is a
grower, it does suggest that the best of Joe Louis Walker is yet to come.
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