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March 2014

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Joe Louis Walker
Hornet's Nest
Alligator Records

Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker is on a roll. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame last year at the Blues Music Awards, he's now out with a new record, Hornet’s Nest, on Alligator Records. Pushed by producer/drummer extraordinaire, Tom Hambridge, Joe is surrounded by Reese Wynans on B3 and keys, Rob McNelley on guitar and Tommy MacDonald on bass to put out a record that is one of my favorites to start the new year and an early contender for Top Ten consideration at the end of the year. Let’s throw it into the CD player and see what comes up.

Joe’s blistering guitar kicks us off as the band tackles the title cut, “Hornet’s Nest.” Joe’s a jealous man and he won’t put up with anyone trying to give his lady extra attention other than him. “You’ve been hanging around my baby’s roses….where the air smells so sweet…mister, you’ve got trouble coming…and, you’ve got scratches on your feet…don’t go messin’ round this hornet’s nest…you’ll be sorry what you done…cause if you mess around this hornet’s nest…man, you’re going to get stung.” Sounds like good advice, I’d probably stay out of this particular lady’s rose bushes.

Next up is “All I Wanted to Do,” and I hear the trumpet of Vinnie Ciesielski as part of the intro. Joe’s in love and he really wants to get close to the object of his affection. “All I wanted to do…was to love you…but you wouldn’t let me.” This girl’s been hurt and she’s just not ready to let anyone in, including Joe.

The tempo of “As the Sun Goes Down” slows significantly as Joe tells us about the influence of the west side of Chicago on his blues. “As the sun goes down…I know I’ve done wrong…she said, “Baby, stop,” trifling with my heart…I finally found the light…but now it’s getting dark.” She’s ready to go on without him and Joe came to that realization just a little bit too late.

So of course, our next cut is perfectly apropos, “Stick a Fork in Me.” This time however, Joe’s the one who’s had enough. “I finally saw the light…now, I see right through you…I’m taking back my heart…you can keep your attitude…stick a fork in my baby…I’m done with you." Joe sounds ready and able to move on and I have no doubt he’ll be just fine. Roy Hamilton’s fine tune, “Don’t Let Go,” is our next cut and Joe and the boys hit it just fine. “This feeling’s killing me…aw shucks..hold me tight…and don’t let go.” Tom’s bass kick drum in at the forefront of the back end as Joe tells us of the love he has for his woman in “Love Enough." “She’s got love enough to last…until I lay my soul to rest…ain’t that love enough.” It evidently is and Joe’s very happy to be in the space he’s occupying now.

We move on to “Ramblin’ Soul," and Tom’s drum work is definitely driving the back end as Joe tells his woman not to feel bad. “I got leaving in my bloodline…yes, I was born to roam…my home is where I’m going….a ramblin’ man’s a rolling stone.” I’m afraid there’s not much she can do to keep him…when Joe get’s the itch…it’s just time to head back onto the road.

Up next is Joe’s take on a Rolling Stone’s tune, “Ride On, Baby.” “You walk up to me…and try to look shy…the red round your eyes…says you’ve been a child…and I say…ride on, baby…ride on.” She’s definitely not Joe’s taste and there’s not much more to say except, “ride on, baby.” “Soul City” is the last non-original tune on the disc and Joe tackles it head on. “Memphis, Tennessee…soul city.” A discourse on towns all around the world, Joe throw’s a blistering lead guitar in for good measure and it ends up being a rocking tune, for sure.

Our final three tunes all have Tom Hambridge’s handiwork in them, starting with “I’m Gonna Walk Outside.” “A married woman…a back door man…a loaded pistol…in your husband’s hand…I’m gonna walk outside…take a good look around…if I don’t quit you baby…I’m going to be six feet in the ground.” Joe’s been a bad boy and he completely understands the risk he’s taking sleeping with this married woman in her husband’s bed. Hopefully the walk outside will do him good and he’ll continue to walk on down the road.

Reese Wynan’s B3 provides the intro to the next original, “Not in Kansas Anymore." “The cowardly lion…hear the mighty rooooaaaar…I get the feeling…we’re not in Kansas anymore.” It’s a good times tune and the band is having a great time while I’m having flashbacks to the original Wizard of Oz. It’s a good thing we’re definitely….not in Kansas anymore.

Hornet’s Nest closes out on a spiritual note as Joe and the band tell us to “Keep the Faith.” “Remember…love is the strength…in our lives…moms will be moms…a job that’s never done……remember…love is the strength in our lives…and when you lie…and deny it…you can’t serve mine.” Love is the light and the way; it will bring you back home where you belong.

Hornet’s Nest is another great Joe Louis Walker record. I’ve been a fan of Joe’s since back in the day when we booked him for Blues Blast many moons ago, and producer Tom Hambridge does an excellent job of getting the best out of Joe. Surrounded by some of Nashville’s finest musicians, Joe rises to the challenge and delivers some amazing licks. Hornet’s Nest just hit the streets and will be a record strongly considered at Blues Music Awards time, so catch Joe on the road this festival season and enjoy the fruits of his labors by grabbing a copy of this disk when you see him. You’ll enjoy both the show and the record --- guaranteed!

--- Kyle Deibler



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