Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

JOE LOUIS WALKER

HELLFIRE

2012-02-17

With 20 plus discs to his name since his 1986 debut, guitarist Joe Louis Walker could be forgiven if picked the best of the lot and simply toured on his catalog. Instead, as evidenced by his debut on Alligator Records, Walker continues to write new material and to explore the intersection between traditional blues, gospel and blues rock. With a large store of blues licks and styles learned at the feet of blues legends including Fred McDowell, Ike Turner, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Albert and Freddy King and polished with the help of friend Michael Bloomfield at the dawn of blues rock, Walker has all the fire power he needs to take his tunes wherever his muse leads him. On "Ride All Night" that means the big hooks and harmonies of a classic AC/DC style rocker while the title track reaches back to the keyboards and psychedelic rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s and "Too Drunk To Drive" is a road house rocker. In contrast, "What It’s Worth" and "I Won’t Do That" are low down dirty blues with plenty of sustained bent notes that reveal producer Tom Hambridge’s stint as Buddy Guy’s producer of late. "Soldier for Jesus" is a gospel rave up made all the much sweeter by the harmonies of the Jordanaires who also make an appearance on "Don’t Cry". While most electric bluesmen stay a mile away from big rock and soul ballads, Walker has no problem taking that trip on "I Know Why" where his vocals shine brightly over the stellar keyboard work of Reese Wynans. Throughout this release, Walker is simply fearless on guitar mixing fleet fingered solos with long bent notes and an ample use of dynamics. Individual guitarists may be technically adept in one style of the blues or another but few can play as successfully on as broad a range of material as included here. Overall, this disc reveals Walker to be a seasoned bluesman with plenty left to offer. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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