Sunday, March 09, 2014

Joe Louis Rocks Out On Hornet's Nest

Somewhere I read that Joe Louis Walker’s new CD, Hornet’s Nest (Alligator), is his 25th. Whether that is the actual case, it gives a sense of the substantial body of work he has recorded since his first Hightone album some quarter-century ago. Walker, recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame has produced some of the finest blues recordings of this time span displaying both passion and substance as a songwriter and performer.

The CD was produced by Tom Hambridge who has produced Buddy Guy’’s recent recordings and Hambridge also is on drums and contributes backing vocals. The other member of the studio band that will be familiar is Reese Wynans on keyboards. The Muscle Shoals Horn Section is present on one of the 11 selections. Hambridge contributed to 8 of the 11 selections on this (4 of which Walker contributed to).

Hambridge’s production brings a rock-tinged edge to the music here, some of which is pretty much ‘in your face.’ And this CD is not strictly blues as there is a fair amount of hard blues-rock present along with some blues. Folks with a preference for a more traditional blues sound might want to pass on this while folks that like their blues mixed with hard rock will be quite happy with it.

The title track is a but of blues-tinged rock with Hambridge pushing the groove with the subtlety of a sledgehammer operator while Walker lays down a fiery blues-rock solo against the dense backing providing. All I Want To Do has more of a laid back feel as the Muscle Shoals Horns add punch as Walker singing soulfully (although his voice sounds a bit strained here). A shuffle, Stick a Fork in Me, has a clever lyric along with a lively performance and followed by an imaginative rendition of the old Roy Hamilton hit, Don’t Let Go.

Walker plays slide on the terrific, I’m Gonna Walk Outside. Walker channels Muddy Waters as he sings “A married woman, a back door man, a loaded pistol in you husband’s hand.” Ramblin’ Soul is more heavy blues-rock as he bellows about hellhounds can’t find him as he lays lays down slide as the backing pounds things along. It is followed by a Jagger & Richards cover, Ride On, Baby, that sounds to these ears like a Bruce Springsteen cover.

Soul City is a rocker lyrically akin to James Brown’s recording of Night Train, and musically evoked the classic Stax instrumental “Soulfinger,” with screaming guitar. I would love to hear someone interpret this as a horn based funk number. “Not in Kansas Anymore,” with an opening that evokes The Who’s We Won’t Get Fooled Again, and a lyric about Dorothy, Toto, wicked witches and the Wizard of Oz, is straight hard rock.

Joe Louis Walker establishes on Hornet’s Nest that he can rock as hard a anyone out there and more than capable of playing something other than blues. Hopefully it is a recording that will enable him to enlarge his audience and  enable him to play not simply to blues audiences and venues but to  venues and events that rarely feature blues performers. Hornet’s Nest shows he continues to invest his performances with considerable power and passion although it will not be an album this listener will be listening to regularly, but that is a matter of musical taste.

I received this from Alligator. Here is the title track.

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