Originally released in 1992, "Big Blues From Texas" came about as the result of conversations between label boss John Stedman, and Lowell Fulson. Walker was paired with producer/guitarist/band leader Otis Grand, and things worked out mighty fine. Indeed, this album, which ended a four year gap in Walker's somewhat sporadic recording career, helped him get his foot back in the door.
The title perfectly sums what the album is all about. This is Texas blues in the grand tradition (no pun intended) with smoldering guitar solos. More often than nor Walker is aided and abetted by a swinging three piece horn section, which really comes into its own on "Bluesmobile." It is a classy, big band style blues tune, that would not have looked out of place in the repertoires of the great blues shouters like Jimmy T-99 Nelson, Percy Mayfield, and Jimmy Witherspoon.
The album explores a lot of the territory of Texas blues, rather than simply sticking to a single groove, or mimicking the likes of T-Bone Walker. There's no doubting T-Bone's influence on a number of songs, but Phillip Walker remains very much his own man. He had a hand in writing most of the songs here, including the infectious "Beatrice, Beatrice"--co-written with Larry Garner--where Buzz Brown lays down some nice Jimmy Reed style harp, on a tribute to Walker's long-standing wife. It is just one of many highlights, however. In fact, you could dip into just about every track and find something worth writing about.
The reissue of back catalog items of the caliber of Phillip Walker's "Big Blues From Texas" will do nothing to draw JSP's current purple patch of quality releases to a close. Despite the lack of a record deal at the time, Walker was in fine form, and the combination of Walker and Otis Grand works particularly well. The end result is an album that deserves to rank right up there among Walker's finest recordings to date.
Phillip Walker web: www.phillipwalker.com
Otis Grand web: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/otisgrand/OtisG.htm
This review is copyright © 2000 by Gordon Baxter , and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.