Joe Louis Walker recorded three releases under the Stony Plain imprint, one of which, the 2009 Between a Rock and the Blues, won the 2010 Blues Foundation's Blues Album of the Year, and which Walker himself deemed to be matched only by his earlier Great Guitars (1997, Polydor). The guy wielded then, and still wields now (he's moved to Alligator Records after SP), a killer guitar hand, fierce and unrelenting, often verging upon the psychedelic, so unyielding is his approach. The larger share of the cuts on The Best of the Stony Plain Years is written or co-written by him, and Highview shows just what that means. An instrumental, it establishes a mediated organ-based boogie and then proceeds to burn. Duke Robillard, within his own soloing, joins Walker, then the two knock heads together and go to it as a duet.
Hustlin' quotes Don Nix's Goin' Down, then sets into a bar-band raver, boozy and insistent, Walker once again wrestling incendiary work from his axe. Mark 'On the Beat' Texeira (drums) and Bruce Katz (piano) keep the underside stomp-footed and beer-glasses-tinkly, so you can do The Brontosaurus to it if you feel so inclined. Two other of the 11 selections feature the rather awesome varying presences of Johnny Winter (slide), Mike Finnigan (organ, vocals), and Curtis Salgado (vocals), all of whom showed up for the good times.
This is New Orleans / post-Chicago blues but mixes gospelly down-home into the mix in You're Gonna Make Me Cry for a lengthy shouter just before the acoustic Send You Back features Sugar Ray Norcia on harp. The 6:10 Witness, one of Walker's own, hits more in old Chambers Bros. / soul territories, Katz's organ coloring things up. I think my favorite cut, though, just might be the opener, Eyes Like a Cat, 'cuz it cuts, perversely enough, like a blues square dance of a particularly boisterous nature, jumpin' in the horns and even getting down on some chikken-pickin'. Should you care to sample why Walker, a cat very well known around the globe, has been able to easily capture such figures as Huey Lewis, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, of course Duke Robilard, and a stelllar cornucopia of others on his many past releases, there's no better starting point than here. And when you find a big ol' smile wrapping around your face, check out the other disc in Stony Plain's The Best Of series, the one with Long John Baldry (here).
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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