"A Delicious Serving Of Soulful Blues and Spirited Gospel"
It isn't too often when a new recording conveys that feeling of satisfaction, becoming a treasured work of pure listening pleasure. When it does, you really can't help but want to share it with everyone you know. One such recording, is the latest release, In The Morning(Telarc 2002) by veteran blues artist Joe Louis Walker. His debut with the Telarc label is just the beginning of a long and prosperous partnership, considering he hit this one right out of the park. In The Morning, is a first-rate recording from start to finish and can easily be described as refreshing, enjoyable, a genuine "feel good" album.
In The Morning covers many styles of blues, from delta and soul, to gospel and R&B, reflecting the music that defines the artist himself. With a career spanning several decades, Walker continues to remains loyal to his love of gospel and his passion for blues. This talented musician, is a gifted guitar virtuoso who has a very natural style, an instinctive ease, when performing. Walker maintains an equal balance on each track, his solo work enhancing the sound without expanding far beyond the songs original intent. In The Morning, has a pleasant blend of blues styles and tempo changes that truly compliment each other. Every track highlights Walker's dynamic, highly energetic style as a performer. The artist's soulful spirit certainly delivers a sound both smooth as silk and sizzling hot.
The albums ten tracks are a tailored fit, enhancing both Walker's expressive vocals and blazing fretwork. You'll immediately notice the clear, well defined sound, with plenty of room for his emotional spirit to shine, starting with the opening track, "You're Just About To Lose Your Clown." This funky tune has a tasty Latin flavor that grabs your attention, leaving you wanting more. Next comes the title track, "In The Morning" a light, soulful tune, the first of two definitive gospel tracks, highlighting the wonderful background vocals of Andrea Re. The following tune "Joe's Jump" switches gears with it's upbeat, foot stompin', shuffle and snappy guitar solos. You can hear Walker really having one heck of a good time with this one. The mood changes on, "Leave That Girl Alone", a jazz influenced soul tune with some impressive guitar leads. Walker's voice howls and woos in the background, a nice effect. The second gospel tune is, "Where Jesus Leads", a genuine tribute to the genre, as Walker delivers a strong vocal performance, quite similar to that of Al Green's preachin' style. One of the stronger tracks here, and a personal favorite is "Strange Loving", a powerful number, with it's gritty, swamp rock style of R&B. Walker's vocals are full-bodied, as he groans and growls, shout and moans with a sound reminiscent to that of Wilson Picket. This is certainly one of those tunes having all the necessary ingredients for top10 single status. Another change in tempo follows with, "Do You Wanna Be With Me?", a hip, soulful tune, with a slight disco feel. Walker dances across the fretboard with incredible ease, his solo work is infectious, guiding the focus back towards a more R&B sound. Walker closes the album in grand finale style, saving his very best for last with, "Strangers In Our House." This final track is an all acoustic Mississippi delta blues tune, showcasing Walker's highly skilled talents both vocally and on bottleneck. He delivers a vocal performance loaded with raw, gut wrenching emotion that's palpable. Walker has a keen sense of drawing you directly into the story, once he's got you, there's no letting go. You can't help but feel the intensity of emotion right along with him. "In The Morning" highlights the music of Joe Louis Walker's impressive career. It's like a having a front row seat to experience one of most dynamic soul and blues artists in the music industry today. Walker worked on this recording with some of the very best musicians in the business, G.E. Smith on guitar, Andrea Re with backup vocals and percussion, T-Bone Wolk on bass, Steve Holley on drums, and David Maxwell on keyboards.
Walker has paid his dues and racked up plenty of mileage through the years, performing all across the country. Born on Christmas Day, Walker was raised in a household heavily influenced by Gospel music. His parents owned a collection of blues recordings that sparked Walker's interest with the genre, and by the age of 14, he began playing guitar. Two years later, he left home and headed for San Francisco, finally residing in the Haight-Ashbury district, sharing a room with guitarist Mike Bloomfield of the Butterfield Blues Band. Walker spent the next decade opening for and playing with some of the most influential blues artists of that period, who are now legends of the genre. Walker played with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lightin' Hopkins, Freddie King, Lowell Fusion and even Jimi Hendrix and his mentor, Mississippi Fred McDowell, a major influence on Walker's style. Even though he continued performing, the lifestyle during that time period began taking its toll on young Mr. Walker. In 1975, Walker just up and left, leaving behind a promising career in blues. It was the kind of decision that probably saved his life, as Walker began attending church on a regular basis. Shortly after, he joined a gospel group called The Spiritual Corinthians, and continued performing with them for another decade. Walker's gospel group performed at the 1985 New Orleans Jazz Festival, while there, he suddenly felt a strong pull back towards the blues. After touring in Europe, Walker formed his own band called the Bosstalkers, and returned to San Francisco to begin performing at varies blues clubs. Walker never looked back, he signed a record deal, and was eventually awarded three W.C. Handy's in '88, '89, and '90 as Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year. Walker and the Bosstalker's changed labels in '92, and won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Blues Band in 1996. He began recording with several different blues artists like James Cotton and B.B. King, while writing material for several others. Walker was making a name for himself, recording ten solo albums since his Handy awards, slowly making his way up the ladder with several well known blues artists. Walker has a devoted following, yet this talented contemporary blues artist is still somewhat overlooked, not receiving the kind of recognition he so rightly deserves. Walker is one of only a few artists with the versatility and experience to incorporate the sounds of gospel and blues together with such perfection. With his latest release, In The Morning, the newest member of the Telarc family, will soon be a very busy man on both coasts and everywhere in between.
Walker reaches both ends of the emotional spectrum on, In The Morning, from pleasure and pain to sorrow and joy. His talents have been nurtured through time and life experience, earning him the title of bluesmaster. "In The Morning", is a great example of the man and his music, a reflection of the sound that fills his heart. Walkers high-powered performance certainly indicates he has no intention of slowing down. This is a great CD, I find myself playing it again and again. It's made my top 10 list for the year, and I imagine it will take home a few awards. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy, you won't be disappointed.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Pamela L. Dow, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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