Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Verve Recordings of Joe Louis Walker

It’s interesting to read the reviews of Joe Louis Walker’s Verve recordings on the All Music Guide, they don’t exactly dump on them but they don’t quite get the priase of his earlier High Tone records. Walker continued to mine his mix of gutbucket blues and soul music with a hint of gospel, as he had been doing for his while career.

The JLW record sets the tone, Walker roars with strong and stinging guitar solos on the uptempo numbers like “On That Powerline” and the soul-tinged “I Need Your Lovin’” Also, his soulful vocals get a chance to shine on the slower tempoed numbers like the poignant “Inner City Man.” A nice touch comes at the end with an acoustic duet between Walker and James Cotton.

AMG says that Blues of the Month Club is Walker’s weakest, and while perhaps it’s not quite as strong as some of his more powerful material, there are still some gems. “Bluesifyin’” grinds a slow slide groove while Walker talks about the blues greats of the past and present. Great Guitars sets Walker up in the time honored major label tradition of the guest star laden compact disc. Walker rips it up and truly holds his own with some great players like Otis Rush and Scotty Moore. There’s some killer songwriting as well, songs like “First Degree” and “Cold and Evil Night” play off the dueling guitars with some excellent singing.

The Preacher and the President really mines Walker’s soul and gospel side. Walker’s final release of his Verve contract was one of his best. Silvertone Blues gives Walker a chance to stretch out on the guitar, vocals and also investigate the gospel music he was involved in before returning to the blues. In a sense, this album was the culmination of all the disparate parts that make up Walker’s musical personality. Verve let him go after this record, and Walker took a break from recording for a couple of years before starting an excellent series of gutbucket blues recordings for the British JSP label as well as some more experimental recordings on other labels.

Send comments to: Tim