How often do you get to see the same great blues act in two different cities, in two different states, in the same week? On Monday, May 8, 2000, I got to "preview" Phillip Walker's show at Brew Baker's when I found out that he was playing at a club called The Bungalow in Billings, Montana. Since I had to get up on Tuesday morning to catch a plane back to Minneapolis, I only was able to get a brief glimpse of the show I was planning to see at Brew Baker's on Friday night.
Born in Louisiana, but now a resident of California, Phillip Walker is 1/3 of the now famous Lone Star Shootout which also includes guitarists Lonnie Brooks and Long John Hunter. Unfortunately, the veritable "Fourth Musketeer," Ervin Charles, who also played guitar on the Shootout CD passed away on April 5 in Houston, Texas. Walker was the third of the three guitarists that I had the opportunity to see in the past year performing solo. Each guitarist puts on a great show alone and I am really looking forward to seeing them all together this summer at the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival in July.
Supported by an excellent band, comprised of seasoned musicians, Walker offered the crowd at Brew Baker's his own personal brand of Texas blues. In addition to Walker on guitar, the Phillip Walker Band included Joe Campbell (trumpet); Bobby Lester (tenor sax); Aaron Tucker (drums); and James Thomas (bass). Interestingly, Tucker and Thomas have recently put out a recording of their own (aptly titled, "Tucker & Thomas"). In Billings, they performed several songs from that recording, as Walker watched from the audience.
Friday at Brew Baker's following an opening set by local blues warriors, Inside Straight, Phillip Walker took the stage for two dazzling sets of his music. The show was highlighted by Walker's excellent guitar and the fine horn work of Campbell and Lester. On almost every song played during the evening, all three musicians would do some serious soloing and then play off of each other to the thrill of the crowd. As the band played, additional entertainment was provided by bassist, James Thomas, who was clearly the most animated performer on the stage.
During each of the two sets at Brew Baker's, the songs were almost seamless, with little, if any, conversation between numbers. Walker, a friendly man offstage, appears most comfortable letting his guitar do the talking when he is on stage. Playing an array of original and cover material including "Street Walkin' Woman," "Crazy Girl" and "How Many More Years," Phillip Walker many times that evening reminded me of another famous guitarist with the same last name (according to information on Phillip Walker's web page, they are NOT related) , T-Bone Walker, a man the Phillip Walker cites as one of his influences along with his second cousin, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.
Needless to say, Walker and the band put on a great show at Brew Baker's, giving the audience everything they could have hoped for; not to mention all that I expected after my Billings, Montana preview. Walker's west coast influences and the prominence of horns in his music make his sound unique among the members of the Lonestar Shootout, providing an entertaining show for everyone at Brew Baker's.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, 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.