Jazz and blues are widely regarded as America’s main musical exports, distinctly American musical forms that’ have subsequently spread around the world. Here we find the blues sailing the high seas as Joe Louis Walker headlines an all-star celebration recorded on the annual Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.
Walker shouldn’t need much introduction by now. A ferociously accomplished guitarist who’s equally adept on slide, blessed with a distinct voice that cuts through the thickest grooves, he’s emerged as one of the blues’ most powerful and compelling performers. He travels in pretty esteemed company, too; guests on this set represent the cream of the contemporary blues crop.
The whole idea behind the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise is collaborative creativity, with jams enthusiastically encouraged. But there’s a difference between loose jams and focused performances, and here we get the latter, with Walker and his and hosting a dazzling parade of blues royalty, including the likes of Johnny Winter, Duke Robillard, and Tommy Castro – and that’s just for starters!
Things kick off with an appearance by Mike Finnigan on the mighty Hammond organ. His may not be the most recognizable name, but the man’s resume is impressive indeed – he’s worked with everyone from Jimmy Hendrix and Joe Cocker to Manhattan Transfer and Rod Stewart. Next it’s the great Johnny Winter, on a down ‘n’ dirty “Ain’t That Cold.” “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” features Finnigan again, along with Curtis Salgado, the two stretching the soul ballad out with exquisitely aching passion.
The pace picks up for the next few tunes, with appearances from Castro and Deanna Bogart (who delivers some sizzling sax on “Eyes Like A Cat”), guitarist Kirk Fletcher (Lowell Fulson’s “Ten More Shows To Play,” a song most touring musicians can identify with) and harmonica wizard Jason Ricci, who soars on a scorching version of “Born In Chicago.”