Thursday, February 09, 2012

Joe Louis Walker - Hellfire (Alligator, 2012)

Guitarist and singer Joe Louis Walker has recorded with many record labels over the course of his career, but to my knowledge, this is his first album for the venerable Alligator Records label. It is not surprising that he found a home with this label, purveyor of "genuine houserockin' music." While Walker can certainly rock the house, his approach moves beyond this one dimensional nature to display a toolbox of skills, showing him to be proficient in gospel music and R&B as well as traditional electric blues. Before he turned to the blues, Walker was a full time gospel artist as a member of the Spiritual Corinthians group. This grounding comes through in the opening track "Hellfire," which although presented as scalding electric blues, traces the artists' struggle between the Devil and the divine, a theme in the blues going back to the times of Son House and Robert Johnson. "Soldier for Jesus" is a more overt gospel tune, in which Walker encourages his listeners to "lay their hands on the radio" and be healed like an old-time evangelist. R&B and soul come into play with the funky "Black Girls" which recalls the deep soul music coming out of Philadelphia and Baltimore in the early 1970's. He shifts back to topical blues with "Too Drunk to Drive Drunk This Time," a fiery party track with a serious message. Aimed at people in a live club audience, its wisdom can be applicable to any situation where safety is at stake. This was a well done set, allowing Walker to play to his strengths as both a singer and a guitarist. Hopefully Alligator will provide him a supportive home for many albums to come as Joe Louis Walker is one of the premier blues artists on the scene today. Hellfire -

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