Joe Louis Walker comes from a deep immersion in trad blues and boogie woogie—highly influenced by such icons as T-Bone Walker, Meade Lux Lewis, and others—but, early on, he harbored a deep love for innovation and improv, obtaining further schooling on-stage from Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Thelonius Monk, Steve Miller, and others. He then met, befriended, and became roomies with Mike Bloomfield. All of these had a profound effect on his style—well, that and the fact that the Fillmore and Haight-Ashbury were his home away from home (the young Walker attended school nearby). His last album, Witness to the Blues, was voted one of the top releases of the year by DownBeat crits, and this one shows why but in a fierily funky live setting a bit more spontaneous than the studio gigs.
Walker spent time, after Bloomfield's death, in a gospel group while studying music and English, and those days show clearly, weighted with an effusive black church ambiance that jumps for joy while wailing in harmonious wistfulness. One of the signal marks this guy carries, though, above and beyond the spicy stomp and hipshake, are his solos, which are as often abstract and wild as they are jazzy and traditional. Thus, we see why Johnny Winter was easily persuaded to sit in, as well as Kenny Neal, Duke Robillard, Tab Benoit, Tommy Castro, and quite a few top drawer players.
Walker's voice is rough and raw, shot through with enthusiasm, and high energy, all the more bolstered when the brass section waltzes in to set up counterpoint. You may, brothers and sisters, feel the urge to holler and testify while listening to Cruise. Please do not repress this, as the Lord loves him a repentant sinner, he surely does, and Joe Louis Walker just kinda has that way about him, that tendency to provoke folk to set up a sweat and a cleansing.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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