Thursday, October 11, 2007

Joe Louis Walker - The Gift (Hightone, 1988)

Soulful guitarist and singer Joe Louis Walker began his musical career in a gospel band before moving into the blues. His career really began to take off when he signed to Hightone Records in the 1980's. He won a Handy Award, and eventually received a major label contract with Verve Records in the 1990's. On this album, Walker's stinging guitar and soulful vocals are right up front on a fine selection of material. The best tracks on this LP in my opinion are the up-tempo burners. Walker has a distinctive guitar attack and he really drives the cookers. "You Only Get One Time Around" and "747" dig deep and allow Walker to solo and testify. "Mama Didn't Raise No Fools" is a fine dynamic tune that has the group shifting gears and changing up the rhythms. "Shade Tree Mechanic" allows him to add some winking and nudging sexual innuendo to the music. Some of the slower ballad material is hampered a but by using dated 1980's "shiny" production, which robs the music of some of its power, but Walker and the band are usually able to cut through the murk and make a solid statement. Joe Louis Walker has been one of the most consisently successful of all modern bluesmen, and this is another fine example of his craft. The music here is tightly focused and very well played by a finely hone group. Fans of the blues with a thoughtful and soulful bent shouldn't pass this by.

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