Joe Louis Walker
For Joe Louis Walker fans (like myself) the last two years have been borderline nirvana, as this monster of a guitar player has released four superlative albums.
Showing no signs of slowing down whatsoever he is back with another record, entitled New Direction (Blues Bureau International), that is nothing short of par excellence.
This entire project is Joe’s from start to finish, as he is in the driver's seat as producer, writer of all ten of the high energy tunes that make up this gemstone, singing his lungs out and demonstrating why he has few peers in the world of blues guitar. His vocals clock in at about 20,000 volts, and you can add about another 50,000 or so to his guitar licks. Translated: this is one very hot recording.
Joe gets right down to business on the album’s opener, “Do You Love Me?,” ripping off about a bazillion sizzling notes alongside his commanding vocals and popping a solo made up of about a gazillion notes towards the end of the number that will turn your brains to mush.
A couple of subjects that Walker holds dear are brought together on “Custom Cars, Gibson Guitars,” with the intent of “cruisin the blues away” as Joe blasts things up another notch, which I didn’t think was humanly possible after the opening piece.
“Messed My Mind Up" is as about as mellow as its going to get, with the talkative lyrics playing out the familiar tale of being blindsided in affairs of the heart; Joe stretches out playing some very inventive call and responses between his commanding vocals and his guitar. On his last two albums, Pasa Tiempo (Blues Bytes Feb. 2003) and $he’s My Money Maker-The Slide Guitar Album (Blues Bytes June 2003), this same technique was often heard, but he eclipses himself on this piece with it’s flowing effortlessness.
Change is the focus of the explosive title track, as the author reflects the tale of a complete makeover and starting out completely from scratch. Autobiographical, perhaps, in light of the wider spectrum that Walker has been exploring over his last few records? I’ll leave that one for the listener to decide.
The shuffling boogie of ”Tempting Me” is pierced by Walker’s effervescent searing soloing for this fun story of the ‘hardships’ of being in the spotlight and being desired by throngs of women. We should all have such problems, eh guys?
It wouldn’t be be a Joe Louis Walker album without the inclusion of a gospel-inspired number, and “Soldier For Jesus” finds Joe cutting loose with some joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic vocals surrounded by some rather country-ish twangy guitar phrases.
“Mr. G’s Boogie” is a sparkling instrumental that shuffles and boogies as it spotlights some superb piano work from Ellis Blacknell Jr., as well as a pair of razor sharp solos from Walker.
“Ain’t That Cold” cooks along to a driving beat permeated with some sizzling slide licks, and is a somewhat familiar tale of a hard hearted woman taking a poor sap for everything he’s got then leaving him in pieces.
Closing the show is a melodic instrumental, “Lena,” which is dedicated to his daughter and is four minutes of guitar heaven. New Direction is a smoldering album that further cements Joe Louis Walker’s place among the legends of the blues.
It would be a shock if this cat ever put out an album that wasn’t great. This one is without a doubt a must have!
--- Steve Hinrichsen
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