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Music Review: Joe Louis Walker – Between A Rock And The Blues

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Many musicians play the blues but Joe Louis Walker is one of those rare individuals who live the blues.

Born on Christmas day 1949, he was a part of the San Francisco blues scene as a teenager and even roomed with legendary guitarist Mike Bloomfield for a number of years. During those early years he shared the stage with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Thelonious Monk, Steve Miller, and Jimi Hendrix.

Walker learned his lessons well as he has emerged as a stunning guitarist whose precision and technical ability are some of the best in existence. He has toured with some of the blues greats of our time including Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Otis Rush, John Mayall, and B.B. King. He has even performed for two Presidents of The United States.

Between A Rock And The Blues is his twentieth album release and features keyboardist Bruce Katz, bass player Jesse Williams, drummer Mark Teixeira, brass players Doug James and Carl Querfurth, in addition to Walker on electric and slide guitar.

He cites B.B. King and Buddy Guy among his musical idols and in places his guitar picking has that clarity of Kings, yet I can’t help but think there is some Bo Diddley in his sound, as many of his songs tread that line between blues and basic rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals and lyrics are about as blues as you can get, but the music goes in a number of directions.

“I’m Tide” is where the blues intersects with rock ‘n’ roll and launches the album to an explosive start. Bass and drums provide the foundation and Walker’s guitar picking floats above an organ sound. “If There’s A Heaven” is an ominous sounding tune and I can help but feel somewhere Bo Diddley is smiling. “I’ve Been Down” and “If There’s A Heaven” continue his exploration of the blues and rock fusion and feature creative and electrifying guitar solos.

“Eyes Like A Cat” sounds as if it could have come straight out of a New Orleans saloon. It features a boogie piano and trombone to support his tasty licks. “Way Too Expensive” can best be described as jump blues as the brass section steps forward to provide a nice counterpoint for his guitar sound. “Hallways” and “Black Widow Spider” even have a little R&B wailing.

Joe Louis Walker has produced an energetic album that pushes the limits of the blues, yet always remains loyal to its foundation. This is about as close to living the blues as a listener can get. It explores passion, pain, loss, fate, inevitability, plus adds a little humor along the way. Between A Rock And The Blues is the blues at its best.

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