Phillip Walker is one of the road warriors of the blues. Fifty years after he made his first recording, he is still clocking up the miles, making it difficult to find time to get into the studio. It therefore seemed natural that Walker's latest offering should be a live one, recorded over two successive nights at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco in June this year.
The album kicks off with the only original, "Hello My Darling". Everything drops right into place from the opening bars, indicating that this is a very together band. The horns are much in evidence, as on the ensuing "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" which the John Brisbin's liner notes appear to suggest is another original, when it is actually a Dennis Walker song.
The first two guests appears on an excellent rendition of Jimmy McCracklin's "Think." Fellow Texan Angela Strehli duets on vocals, whilst Charlie Musselwhite's harp solo gives Walker's guitar solo a run for its money. The guest appearances are brief, lasting just one song, with the only other one coming in the shape of Rick Estrin who blows his harp on a fine reading of Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby."
The big band line-up allows Walker to take on a wider range of material. So, for example, things get a little jazzier on "Crying For My Baby" and "Mary Ann", and Walker slows the pace down on the excellent "Respirator Blues", "90 Proof" and "Along About Midnight." He is also happy on stuff that just chugs along too ("Breaking Up Somebody's Home" and "I've Got A Problem."
The album finally rounds off with the encore of "Linda Lu." It epitomizes much of what is so good about the album. The band is very tight, and when each of the members get their chance in the spotlight, they show that individually, as well as collectively they are more than up to the task. They all know their place, however, and none tries to steal Walker's thunder at any point.
"Live At Biscuits & Blues" is a classy album, which demonstrates that Phillip Walker is currently riding high, and puts on a great show. Although you could quibble about the apparent lack of audience atmosphere, this does not stop "Live At Biscuits & Blues" from being one of the best live blues albums around.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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