Joe Louis Walker’s new Verve release may be his breakthrough album with respect to reaching beyond the core blues audience. The material and the production may a bit more accessible without losing the music’s edge.
Perhaps the rhythm is recorded a little heavier, and Rain on My Mind sounds similar to some Stones’ tune. Those not familiar with the blues world of today may think it is Bonnie Raitt, not Angela Strelhi, on the soulful duet, Hold On. Besides Strelhi, guest appearances are made by the Tower of Power Horns on a couple tracks, Branford Marsalis on the nice soulful Inner City Man, and James Cotton on an acoustic Going to Canada - bassist Henry Oden’s take on the Dust My Broom riff.
What is unusual about this album is that Walker did not pen most of the songs.. There’s the intense version of the oldie Need Your Lovin’ Every Day, and the excellent rendition of Otis Blackwell’s On That Powerline that Walker had been recorded for the Otis Blackwell tribute album on Shanachie that also appears here. Walker himself is the source of the best material. 12-Step Lovin’ (co-written with Laurie Basson) has a clever lyric analogizing love as an addiction with the 12-step treatments for addiction, while Alone is a nice jazzy, soulful blues. Walker throughout sings and plays with the conviction and imagination that has always characterized his recordings and performances.
While it may not be as varied or jazz-inflected as his previous Blues Survivor, JLW is still typical of a Joe Louis Walker recording. It is first rate.
This review originally appeared in the October 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 295). I likely received a review copy from the record company but may have purchased it. Here from over a decade after JLW, Walker is with Billy Branch doiig a Robert Johnson-Elmore James classic.