On Sunday 12 June 2016 at 20:00 GMT Pete Feenstra chats to Joe Louis Walker on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio and plays tracks from the new album
Provogue [Release date 09.10.15]
If bluesman Joe Louis Walker career has been a patchwork quilt of different musical styles rooted in blues and gospel, then it could be argued that he has squared the circle by signing with the rock/blues label Provogue records.
For in a career spanning some 24 solo albums and an unprecedented 48 blues award nominations, he’s covered the waterfront, from West Coast psychedelia with Marty Balin, to bridging the blues/rock market with Michael Bloomfield, as well a decade of gospel with The Spiritual Corinthians, leading to his own stellar funky soulful blues outfit The Boss Talkers.
He also became a guitar hero with ‘Great Guitars’ and eventually rediscovered his mojo on a brace of albums for Alligator.
Of course there’s far more depth to his career than those highlights, but if ‘Everybody Wants A Piece’ is to be interpreted as a comment on the music industry as a whole, it could equally be applied to his genre hopping career. As it is, this album is full of twists and turns and plenty of surprises, as he nails his ability to explore different musical genres with his own DNA.
‘Everybody Wants A Piece’ works hard for its crossover appeal. The variety of the material, the fiery arrangements and the band and producer’s commitment to capturing the spark, makes this album a worthy attempt at something different.
There are telling moment when Joe’s vocals rediscovers his passion as on ‘Black & Blue’, which is everything that the title track isn’t in terms of it’s conciseness. Joe populates the rest of the album with an array of different tones and expressive solos, before finishing on slide guitar, in tandem with Paul Nelson’s acoustic on the closing ’35 Years’.
Even when some of the material doesn’t quite gel, as on Danny Kirwan pedestrian ‘One Sunny Day’ and Buddy Guy’s ‘Man Of Many Words’ (which is reminiscent of Otis Redding’s ‘Hard To Handle’), Joe works hard to make the songs work. And its refreshing to find that as he approaches the veteran stage of his career he’s rediscovered his spark.
Perhaps that has something to do with producer/guitarist Paul Nelson who proved to be such a significant catalyst for the late Johnny Winter’s career. He may just have pushed JLW a fraction out of his comfort zone and the result is some welcome edge.
Joe contributes 5 songs of his own songs and then dips into some eclectic covers. He tries hard to spark the session with a restless harp-led version of Taj Mahal’s ‘Do I Love Her’, and he’s magnificent on the funky undertow and wailing guitar of the old Frank Sinatra hit ‘Witchcraft’.
Equally surprising is the up-beat reworking of the old spiritual ‘Wade In The Water’, which trades Ramsey Lewis percussive instrumental version for a funky riff driven reworking. The significant call and response section comes to dominate the song before the end as Joe soulfully tackles the narrative.
It’s the album’s broad musical outlook and sheer diversity that gives the session its zest. Joe is at his best on the slow build of ‘Black & Blue’, which shifts from an opening jangling guitar motif to a defining chorus. He’s equally good on the beefy shuffle of ‘Young Girl’s Blues’, with incisive licks to match one of his best vocals on the album.
In some ways ‘Everybody Wants A Piece’ is a clever slight of sleight of hand, as the variety of material contributes positively to the flow of the album, meaning that when he does go back to basics he makes a much bigger impact.
He gives us both ends of his musical spectrum with the rock and roll energy of ‘Buzz On You’ and the contrasting late night feel of the self explanatory ‘Gospel Blues’ instrumental, which he colours with some conversational guitar.
‘Everybody Wants A Piece’ isn’t Joe Louis Walker’s greatest album, but it works well enough as a composite to potentially give him the kind of breakthrough he probably had in mind when he signed with his new label. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
Gig review (June 2016)
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