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Witness to the Blues

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Album Review

Joe Louis Walker deserves all the respect he gets, and he gets a lot — as a singer, a producer, a guitarist in multiple styles, a songwriter, and a harmonica player. But that doesn't prevent his first album for the Stony Plain label from being something of a mixed bag. One of Walker's great strengths is the authority with which he can play several different varieties of blues: his version of "It's a Shame" is a supremely confident, horn-driven Chicago blues exercise, while "Midnight Train" evokes the subtler chug of a John Lee Hooker song. "Lover's Holiday" (a lovely duet with Shemekia Copeland) is New Orleans-style R&B, and "Hustlin'" features some very fine barrelhouse piano by Bruce Katz. And that's just the first four tracks, in order. When Walker falters, it's in the vocal department, and it happens most egregiously on the excruciating "Witness." But elsewhere he's in fine voice, and the album-closing "Sugar Mama" is both one of the program's finest tracks and an exceptionally powerful vocal performance. His guitar playing is always a treat, and the album is solidly recommendable overall.


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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Witness to the Blues, Joe Louis Walker
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