No label, no catalog number, and definitely no doubt about it, "Walkin' The Walk Talkin' The Talk" will feature in my top 10 albums of 2000. Pickens County, AL based guitarists Willie King and Birmingham George Conner (with a little help from their friends) serve up some of the earthiest sounding juke joint blues you will ever hear on CD.
The album, which was cut live in the studio, kicks off with "Let's Come Together," a tune from the "Cool Drink Of Water Blues"/"Smokestack Lightnin'" lineage. It just rolls along for all of its nine and three quarter minutes, having a trance like, hypnotic effect on the listener, making you lose all semblance of time. The band just keep on playing as long as they have got something interesting to say. Having limbered up, they jump straight into a cooking version of Willie Dixon's "I'm Leavin'" that would fill any juke dance floor.
You get a chance for a breather during the next track, where Willie King tells how he started off playing the blues. Then it is back to the music, with the only Conner tune ("Poor Boy"). Like all the tunes here it is heavily guitar based, although for most of the proceedings Jock Webb provides suitably atmospheric harp accompaniment, without ever trying to eclipse the two stars. The rest of the band (Rick Tomlinson, Matt and Mark Kimbrell and Charlie Giambrone) provide sterling support throughout.
A meander through B.B. King's "I Want To Get Married" is followed by the instrumental "Strollin' with Willie" which has a melody reminiscent of Junior Walker's "Cleo's Mood." The band then chug through the penultimate "I Miss You When You're Gone" which keeps tantalizingly threatening to break out into "Hideaway." This is one of the great things about the album: the traditions of the blues are there for all to hear, so you can almost plot the genealogy of the tunes, whilst the words are an original blend.
All too soon, the proceedings are drawn to a close with "Freedom Creek Blues." It starts with a narrative section explaining all about the subject of the song, before the band take center stage, and lock into a "Sweet Home Chicago" groove. For the final six minutes or so the band rock things through to a conclusion, with a some more fine guitar slinging from our two heroes.
"Walkin' The Walk Talkin' The Talk" is a slice of living blues history. You would have to go a long way to hear something as vital as this. If you like the Jelly Roll Kings, Junior Kimbrough, or R.L. Burnside, you will love this. Buy it anyway, because it is an essential album that no serious blues lover should be without.
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