Blues Bytes


July 2014

an associate
Joe Louis Walker

Long John Baldry

Joe Louis Walker
Long John Baldry

The Best of the Stony Plain Years
Stony Plain Records

Joe Louis Walker

Recently, Stony Plain Records began a new compilation series, collecting some of the finer moments from some of the mainstay artists over the 38-year history of the Canadian roots label. Given the long list of blues and roots artists who have recorded for Stony Plain over the years, this promises to be an interesting and entertaining project. The first two volumes feature two legendary blues artists, past and present.

Before Joe Louis Walker hooked up with Stony Plain in 2007, he had recorded with four different labels in the previous nine years, and had been living in France for two years. Walker’s stint with the renowned Canadian label was brief, only three years, but very productive and rewarding. He teamed up with Stony Plain stalwart Duke Robillard, who produced his first two releases, and their second collaborative effort, Between A Rock And The Blues, won the BMA’s Blues Album of the Year award in 2010.

Walker’s other two releases, Witness to the Blues and the star-studded Blues Conspiracy: Live at the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, were also well-received. Stony Plain has compiled 11 tracks, representing the best of Walker’s recordings for their label on the new collection, The Best of the Stony Plain Years. Walker’s recordings, regardless of the label, have maintained a strong consistency over the past quarter century, dating back to his days with Hightone Records, and these recordings maintain that excellent quality.

Four tracks are included from 2008’s Witness To The Blues --- the instrumental, “Highview,” a Walker/Robillard guitar duel, the marvelous funky blues, “Hustlin’,” “Sugar Mama,” a sparkling redo of the John Lee Hooker classic, and the inspirational “Witness.” From the award-winning 2009 effort, Between A Rock And The Blues, comes four more tracks --- the dazzling “Eyes Like A Cat,” “Black Widow Spider,” the fiery blues-rocker, “I’m Tide,” and the acoustic blues, “Send You Back,” with Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica. There are three tracks from the live disc, which run consecutively. “Slow Down GTO” (with Mike Finnigan on organ), “Ain’t That Cold” (featuring Johnny Winter on guitar) and a show-stopping cover of “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” with Curtis Salgado and Finnigan.

Clocking in at over an hour, this is an excellent set of Walker’s Stony Plain work, which rejuvenated his career. This collection is every bit the match of his subsequent work with Alligator Records and ranks with some of his best work, no mean feat given the overall quality of his catalog.

Long John BaldryLong John Baldry was one of the founding fathers of the British blues scene, starting his performing career in the late ’50s by performing acoustic blues in London and working with fellow pioneers Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. He was a huge inspiration to The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, and mentored Rod Stewart and Elton John, who returned the favor after they became famous by producing a pair of Baldry’s ’70s blues/rock recordings.

In the late ’70s/early ’80s, Baldry relocated to Canada and became a citizen, eventually making his way to Stony Plain Records in 1991. He recorded for Stony Plain until his death in 2005, releasing five albums and restarting his career in Europe and Australia in the process.

Stony Plain has now issued a retrospective of Baldry’s tenure with the label, The Best of The Stony Plain Years, that features several tunes from his catalog, as well as a couple of rare and previously unreleased tracks.

The 11 tracks consist of re-workings of several classic blues tunes, all featuring Baldry’s rugged vocals (with occasional accompaniment from longtime vocal partner Kathi McDonald). There are several tracks from his Leadbelly tribute album from 2001 (“Midnight Special,” “Good Morning Blues,” which features a snippet of Baldry performing the song in 1958, and “Gallows Pole”), a few live outings (John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” and a duet with Jimmy Witherspoon, backed by Duke Robillard’s band), and a sparkling take on Leroy Carr’s “Midnight Hour Blues.”

Despite his status as an early driving force behind the British blues scene, Baldry didn’t really get the attention his talents deserved during his lifetime. Hopefully, this collection of his later recordings will help bring some much-deserved appreciation, and possibly lead new fans to check out some of his previous recordings as well.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog



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