Blues Bytes


February 2008

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Joe Louis Walker
Cold Is The Night
Hightone Records

Joe Louis Walker

As a teenager, Joe Louis Walker got his start musically playing guitar in the San Francisco Bay Area behind music legends like Otis Rush, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Miles, Thelonius Monk, Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix. He became close friends with Michael Bloomfield, rooming with him for several years. Bloomfield’s untimely death led Walker to undergo a lifestyle change which resulted in him enrolling in college and playing with the gospel quartet, The Spiritual Corinthians.

A successful mid ’80s appearance with the Corinthians at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival encouraged Walker to return to his blues origins. Boasting a guitar attack that counted influences like Earl Hooker, Freddy King, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and B. B. King along with gritty vocals in the style of Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack, and Otis Redding, along with a touch of gospel from his days with the Corinthians, Walker seemed like a “can’t miss” prospect. Signing with Hightone Records (also the home of The Robert Cray Band at that time), Walker and his band, the Boss Talkers, released Cold Is The Night in 1986.

In addition to his impressive musical talents, Walker also was a composer of note, penning several of the tracks for his debut, including the strikingly original “Moanin’ News,” and the aching “One Woman,” and “Don’t Play Games.” Hightone producer Dennis Walker contributed three cuts, including the magnificent title track and “Ten More Shows To Play,” which was co-written by Lowell Fulson.

Dennis Walker and Bruce Bromberg produced the disc, and this version of the Boss Talkers (Henry Oden (bass), Kevin Zuffi (keyboards), Steve Griffith (drums)) was one of the finest. Joe Louis Walker impressed blues fans at the time with his highly expressive vocals and his versatile, imaginative guitar work.

Walker released four more albums for Hightone, and then signed with Polygram in the early ’90s. His time with Polygram, and later stints with several other labels, including Telarc, Evidence, and his current label, JSP, was marked by ambitious, and successful, ventures into jazz, gospel, soul, funk and rock, all steeped in his blues roots. He’s considered one of the most innovative artists in contemporary blues.

Due to his ever-increasing catalog of releases, Walker’s early work for Hightone doesn’t get the recognition of his more current releases, but Cold Is The Night shows that most of the pieces were already in place at the beginning of the journey for Joe Louis Walker.

--- Graham Clarke


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