A new Joe Louis Walker recording is always welcome and Stony Plane has just issued “Between A Rock And The Blues.” I believe this is his second album for Stony Plain and like the prior one is produced by Duke Robillard and the 19th album that is not a compilation of prior recordings. Walker has produced the most impressive of any artist in the blues over the past quarter of a century, and has not produced a disc that was not at least good. This present release may be his best release in a decade with its consistently strong playing, solid backing support, impassioned singing and varied, interesting material. Ten of the tracks were in Rhode Island with a band that included Robilliard, Bruce Katz, Doug James and Carl Querforth on nine and the closing “Send You Back” an acoustic duet with Sugar Ray Norcia’s harmonica. The ensemble playing here is leaner, tighter and sharper sounding than on Walker’s last few albums and his own playing seems to be more focused. Good range of material from the rocking opening “I’m Tired,” where he recites a litany of things he is tired up. It is followed by a hot, bluesy reworking of Travis Phillips’ rockabilly stomp, “Eyes Like a Cat.” “Black Widow Spider” is a nice original with solid keyboards from Katz and sax from James while Walker is strong on guitar and vocals on Murali Coryell’s “Way Too Expensive,” a solid jump blues styled number with a solid Robilliard solo added. Two of the songs were recorded at Kevin Eubanks (you know the one who is associated with Jay Leno) with a band that includes Eubanks, the great Henry Oden on bass and Ellis Eugene Blackwell on keyboards. “If There’s a Heaven,” is typical of the two with an intense driving backing supporting a fervent vocal and some driving slide guitar by one of the blues slide guitar masters of today, evoking Elmore, Muddy, Tampa Red and Earl Hooker, yet immediately recognizable as his own sound. “I’ve Been Down,” the other tune with this band is a driving Rolling Stones inspired blues rocker. “Prisoner of Misery,” with Robillard’s band is back to the West Side Chicago blues while Steve Hall’s “Hallways,” is built on a soulful lyric embellished by Walker’s guitar with Katz taking a solid piano solo while his organ helps set the atmosphere here. The Boss Talker is back with one of the best recent blues albums by anyone.
To the extent required by FTC regulations, I received a review copy of this CD from the record compnay or promotional firm.