Joe Louis Walker is to me the most important modern blues artist to emerge over the past two decades. I reviewed his debut in Living Blues and have been following and writing his subsequent releases as he moved from Hightone to Verve and then to other labels including Telarc, JSP, Stony Plain and most recently Alligator. Here is a the first part of a review I did of two releases by him that came out in 2002 and that I reviewed in the September 2002 DC Blues Calendar. I believe I received a review copy of In The Morning and possibly the DVD, but I may have purchased the Guitar Brothers.
In the Morning (Telarc Blues) is his debut for that label where he is backed by a studio band that includes G.E. Smith who used to lead the Saturday Night Live Band. Opening with a hot latin groove on You’re About to Lose Your Clown, this disc has perhaps a bittersweet lyrical and melodic flavor. This is not to take anything away from Walker’s typically strong singing and inventive playing. He can rock with the best of them, provide some stunning driving slide, insert some jazz inflections or solid acoustic all the while bring his gospel-rooted soulful singing to the front.
The title track has a pop melodic tone and the use of a backing vocal chorus as he sings about rising and wiping the tears from his eyes. Joe’s Jump is a shuffle with a lyric about his women telling she loved him, told him a lie before they start to jam but the playing never really seems to find a focus. Much better is Leave That Girl Alone with nice jazzy touches to the playing.
Where Jesus Leads is a nice gospel number with a slightly downhome flavor to its relatively sparse accompaniment. Another highpoint is Strange Loving with a driving rhythm. There is a remake of the Rolling Stones instrumental 2120 Michigan Avenue that I would rather here Walker do with his own band than the band here which sounds a bit too controlled and the performance lacks some focus.