Gig review: JOE LOUIS WALKER – Dingwalls, London, 9 June 2016

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

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JOE LOUIS WALKER – Dingwalls, London, 9 June 2016

Tonight’s Joe Louis Walker show is a reminder that the blues is a catalyst for sundry musical possibilities.

The multiple Blues Music Award Winner is a blues messenger with a difference. He’s a living conduit between the past, present and future. He grew up on the West Coast blues and psychedelic scene and he’s played with everybody from Muddy Waters, B.B.King, John Lee Hooker, Mike Bloomfield, through to Magic Slim, Jimi Hendrix and even Earl Hooker who he later pays homage to at the heart of his set.

Above all, he’s uncompromisingly forged his own path in a 30 year recording career as part of half a century of treading the boards.

Tonight he revels in all aspect of the blues genre, as his tight band presents a show that appears as effortless as it is filled with passion and commitment.

He’s unique voice colours a wide array of material with expressive phrasing. His trademark guitar style is full of intricately delivered notes, as he pays due respect to a blues legacy that finds him playing the very same club in which he made his UK breakthrough in ’86.

JOE LOUIS WALKER – Dingwalls, London, 9 June 2016

The difference this time round is that he’s signed to a rock/blues label that is comfortable with his crossover style. And he’s in celebratory mode, as he dips into all aspects of his oeuvre, mixing funky highs with scintillating guitar runs, big shuffles, deep grooves, heartfelt gospel and uplifting slide. His intense band interplay shapes a set that is big on variety, but always anchored by the emotional charge of the blues.

Joe Louis Walker at Dingwalls by MHPStudios

Opening with an extended instrumental and band intro, he leans into the mid-paced ‘I’m Not Messin’, to set the standard for the evening with a true blues master.  He knows the value of a space, time and an evocative tone, as he brings all his qualities to bear on a booming ‘T-Bone Shuffle’.

He pushes the groove, phrases eloquently and unexpectedly segues it into ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’, in an apparent homage to the British Invasion and the way that era opened up the blues to a new demographic and a new generation.

Joe Louis Walker at Dingwalls 3 by MHPStudios

But tonight is far from being academic lesson, as he transforms the spiritual ‘Wade In The Water’ into some hard hitting funk with steely licks and a resonant tone.

He dips into his current ‘Everybody Wants A Piece’ album for the muscular ‘Black & Blue’, which he then breaks down to the most delicate of notes, before rebuilding the song with real intensity.

At this point the crowd is ready to follow Joe wherever he wishes to take them, but he stays true to his mission of drawing them in to every facet of the blues, with a brace of gospel songs, of which the harmony vocals and slide guitar of ‘Soldier For Jesus’ is irresistible.

JOE LOUIS WALKER – Dingwalls, London, 9 June 2016

He dedicates a slide-led piece on an unusual D’angelo guitar to the Lizard Brothers, and overcomes a bass hum to make a big impact with his own take of ‘Witchcraft’.

By the time of his early career classic ‘One Time Around’, he’s into overdrive, adding a lovely tension breaking, stuttering guitar line, as the front ranks dance like it’s ’67 back at the Fillmore West.

Joe Louis Walker is much more than the last man standing in the blues scene. He’s a restlessly creative musician who lives for the kind of connection with his crowd that makes this Dingwalls show an unfettered celebration of contemporary blues.

Kath & Co. – Dingwalls, London, 9 June 2016

Earlier in the evening special guests Kat & Co slip on to the Dingwalls stage barely noticed. Over the course of a short but concise set – full of funky grooves, seamless solos and Kathleen Pearson’s deep soulful voice – they draw the crowd in and deserve their warm reception. They are clearly a band with a promising future.

Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Mark Hughes at MHP Studios

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

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