Album Review: JOE LOUIS WALKER – Viva Las Vegas Live

JOE LOUIS WALKER - Viva Las Vegas Live

Cleopatra Records   [Release date: 10.05.2019]

There’s just something about these old blues guys that sets them apart and I think the word is authenticity – it’s in their blood, and they’re going to keep doing it until they can’t do it anymore.

A case in point is Joe Louis Walker who is a young 70 compared to many of his peer group, has been playing guitar since he was eight years old and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

He has played with many legends of the genre during his sixty years in the business including John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, B B King, Peter Green and John Mayall honing his craft – and whilst he is no guitar God with the virtuosity of, say, Buddy Guy, he is, without doubt, a player.

Viva Las Vegas is a CD/DVD set catching Walker and his seasoned road band live at the famous Boulder Station Casino in Las Vegas during his 2018 US tour.

The gig gets underway with a standard rock and rolling blues shuffle ‘I’m Not Messin’ Round’ replete with call and response vocal lines from the rest of the band and follows it up with a classic 12 bar blues track ‘Young Girls Blues’.

This is where Walker demonstrates his use of the guitar as part of the overall sound rather than ripping out solos all over the place and his willingness to showcase the rest of the band, particularly giving keysman Bruce Bears (yes, really) plenty of opportunities to exercise his digits.

‘Sugar Mama’, a classic slow blues (who could forget Rory Gallagher’s version with Taste at the Isle Of Wight Festival?) is where Joe really does put his guitar at the centre of things – with plenty of nimble fretwork to underline his player credentials and also prove that he’s no slouch with the gob-iron either.

‘Do You Love Me?’ is more Southern rock than blues whilst ‘In The Morning’ and ‘You Don’t Love Me Girl’ could have been recorded back in the sixties by any of the old Atlantic Records soul guys and perhaps underline where Walker’s soul(!) really lies.

We’ll skip ‘Soldier For Jesus’ which really is as foetid as it sounds.

Further examples of Walker’s guitar prowess rock up on ‘Black And Blue’ with its jazzy overtones and great use of the volume knob proving to be a highlight of the set.

Things wind up with the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll workout of the Chuck Berryesque ‘Too Drunk To Drive Drunk’ (complete with duck-walk) and an encore of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Like It This Way’ – played as a tribute to Danny Kirwan who had recently passed away.

The DVD is well shot without using a myriad of cameras, angles or smart-arse techniques  and is all the better for it and the sound on both the DVD and the CD is first-rate giving that essential ‘live’ feel.

For fans of the genre this is as good a live recording as you’ll find and an excellent example of a master of his art doing what he does best.

 ***1/2  (half star deducted for ‘Soldier For Jesus’)

Review by Alan Jones


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