One man, one voice, one guitar. It doesn't get much simpler or more direct than that. Which means the latter two better be good, 'cause there's really no room to hide . . .
Little Toby Walker is indeed good, both as vocalist and player. And Cool Hand, a mostly-original collection, is a pleasant, if less than earth shattering, listen.
Toby is something of a blues scholar, having made numerous trips through the southern states to research the roots of the form. That research is amply evident in his musicianship; he's as fine and fleet a picker as any, employing both Martin and National guitars to produce beautifully clear, ringing tones. His lyrical concerns, however, are very much modern, with topics ranging from the inescapable effects of aging ("I Can't Remember") to a rather satirical look at religious hucksterism ("Give Me That On-Line Religion"). The two covers include the traditional "Pretty Polly" and "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad," the latter with a spoken word introduction that effectively places it in its historical context.
Toby's voice isn't particularly deep, and he lacks that certain gravitas that would lend a bit of depth to his singing; like his music, it's more pleasant than profound, ideally suited to his material but not overly memorable.
Toby's blues are of the 'lite' variety, and given that blues are supposed to reflect one's life experience, that's okay. He doesn't address subjects foreign to his experience (there's nothing here about picking cotton in the midday sun, and the horrors of slavery and oppression aren't among his lyrical preoccupations), so in that sense his music rings true. One gets the impression he's a very happy person, and his music reflects his personality. Perfect for a lazy summer day, but to me it's unlikely to resonate much beyond the final notes. Still, there's a time and place for feeling good, and an hour or so spent with Toby seems infinitely preferable to wallowing in the misery so many seem to think is necessary to play blues.
All in all a fine and enjoyable disc.
You can now order other CDs, books, and videos from Blues On Stage in association with Amazon.com. Simply click on the logo at the left and shop! They have some of the best prices on the web and even offer some used product at lower prices.
This review is copyright © 2002 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
You can help support this blues website by making a contribution (click on the banner below for details)
Web Hosting & Design:
Web Hosting & Design.
Most affordable web hosting and design services available.
Find out how you can host your current site at Blues On Stage, or how I can help you design your own website!
If you would like your CD reviewed, please send TWO (2) copies, along with promotional material to:
Blues On Stage
PO Box 582983
Minneapolis, MN 55458-2983
E-mail Ray Stiles @ firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.