Joe Louis Walker

Only a decade ago, Bay Area bluesman Joe Louis Walker was one of the idiom's best-kept secrets despite clearly possessing prodigious talent. His crisp, concise guitar work--whether on conventional single-string lead or employing a crashing slide--slices like a machete; his gospel influenced vocal delivery grabs hold of a lyric and simply refuses to let go, and his songwriting skills are incisive and prolific. In short, he is the total package. Yet for years he was known only to a loyal following of hip aficionados.

Those days are over. Today Joe Louis Walker reigns as one of the hottest and most-respected names in blues. Whether he's exploring traditional themes or remaining cutting edge contemporary, Joe Louis Walker now ranks with the blues elite.

"I was told by many people, 'Joe, don't try to be me, and don't try to be somebody else. Be yourself,"' he says. I never was one of those guys to sit down and try to copy B.B.King note for note, or Albert King, at Freddy King. I enjoy the hell out of 'em, but I figure if I'm gonna do this here, I might as well do it and. put my own stamp on it."

JOE LOUIS WALKER "New Direction" Provogue

It's difficult to imagine a more apt album title than Joe Louis Walker's "New Direction", for as this album demonstrates from its abrasive opener, Joe has toughened up, and is pursuing a heavier funky direction, complete with gritty vocals and plenty of guitar.

That's not to say his post Robert Cray soulful style has been completely abandoned, but a few years ago JLW was a long way from the rocky urban funk sound of "Do You Love Me". But once you get over the shock, there is plenty to admire. He hasn't of course completely abandoned his smooth blues style as the cool "Messed My Mind Up" shows; Joe phrases with raw gut emotion and adds a cool solo with nice use of his volume control. "You Don't Love Me" is a more considered piece of funk, with biting lyrics, while "Soldier For Jesus", its obvious gospel sentiments apart, is perhaps too undemanding to convince.

Joe has been the number one blues contender for a long time now, and you get the feeling that good as tracks such as "MrG's Boogie" are - a thumping guitar boogie shuffle with an excitable Ellis Blacknell Junior on keys - its one a few songs that make this album a near miss, rather than a five star "New Direction". That said, Joe is a classy blues pioneer, and maybe this change of label as well as musical direction might kick start a new era for him.

Here are some audio clips from
New Direction:
(CD quality)
(AM radio)
New Direction
Do You Love Me
Messed My Mind Up

Joe was number 3 in the August 2004 Playlist

Clips are in Windows Media Player format, and should stream to your PC in CD quality if you have Broadband, or lower quality if you use a dial-up connection.

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