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Playin' Dirty

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Album Review

Although the contemporary blues genre can often seem predictable, Joe Louis Walker seldom has been. That has made him one of the freshest and most exciting and volatile players on the scene. Those are also the attributes of this 2006 release, recorded in Paris, which twists and turns just when it seems to be settling into a groove. Blues fans who demand consistency probably should explore elsewhere as Walker shifts from the edgy, swamp-laced "Nobody Wanta to Know Ya" (a thin rewrite of the classic "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out") to joyous covers of rock & roll oldies "Barefoot Rock," "I Got Loaded," and Fats Domino's "I'm Ready" (inexplicably titled "Ready and Able"). Walker sounds like he's having a blast, too, especially as he overdubs himself on harmonica and guitar during a slicing slide solo on "Poor Man Plead." He shifts into shuffle style for Elmore James' "Pickin' the Blues," a blazing Freddie King-inspired instrumental. On the slow blues of "Ain't It Nice to Be Loved" he overdubs himself again, this time on piano, then picks up the pace for the jump blues of Rudy Greene's swinging "Juicy Fruit," another track where he lays down multiple guitar parts to impressive effect. The closing jaunty unplugged solo instrumental is the disc's only acoustic offering and shows he's just as accomplished in raw Delta mode. But it's Walker's powerful gospel and soul-infused vocals that make him so unique. He's an underrated singer whose distinctive, soulful voice is the glue holding these songs together. While some might prefer more originals next time out, Walker's covers on Playin' Dirty are loose and vibrant. The result is a blazing set that shows him to be one of the finest and most overlooked artists in contemporary blues.


Born: 25 December 1949 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Without a doubt one of the most exciting and innovative artists gracing contemporary blues, guitarist Joe Louis Walker has glowed like a shining blue beacon since the release of his 1986 debut album for HighTone, Cold Is the Night. The disc announced his arrival in stunning fashion, and his subsequent output has only served to further establish Walker as one of the leading younger bluesmen on the scene. Joe Louis Walker is the total package, as tremendously assured on a down-in-the-alley acoustic...
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Playin' Dirty, Joe Louis Walker
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