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Index of Artists

Joe Louis Walker

Biography:

JOE LOUIS WALKER FINDS THE VIBRANT PLACE BETWEEN A ROCK AND THE BLUES ON HIS SECOND STONY PLAIN RELEASE

This bluesman’s ambition is to follow in the footsteps of two American heroes, Louis Armstrong and B.B. King

“Play everywhere, all the time, as often as I possibly can. Travel anywhere there’s an audience for my music, take every opportunity, and keep playing and singing as well as I know I can.

“My dream was always to play my music in as many different places as I can; that’s why I admired Louis Armstrong and why B.B. King and Buddy Guy are heroes for me — they always kept their music fresh by reaching out to new audiences all the time.”

It’s Joe Louis Walker talking, a man who travels so much his passport has been used to cross more borders than 99 per cent of all Americans, and a man who does everything he can to refresh his powerful, timeless music.

Music at the crossroads Now, with his 20th album — and his second for Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records — he has put a spotlight on the powerful crossroads where the blues and rock meet on common ground. Between a Rock and the Blues is a breakthrough; a testament to the truth of Muddy Waters’ assertion than the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll.

Walker’s own originals on this album re-affirm the depth of his song writing that has been amply displayed over the course of his career. The opening track, “I’m Tide,” reflects an attitude that seems prevalent in Walker’s generation, dealing with the superficiality of the modern age. In contrast, “Black Widow Spider” and “Prisoner of Misery” are autobiographical pieces stemming from the emotions he’s experienced in some of his relationships. As always, Walker manages to do this with a healthy combination of poignancy, wit and sharp humor.

Ten of the album’s dozen tracks were produced by Stony Plain label-mate Duke Robillard (who additionally guests on one track), and feature a core band of Walker on guitars, Bruce Katz on keyboards, Jesse Williams on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums, Doug James on sax, Carl Querfurth on trombone and Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica.

Kevin Eubanks, former music director of The Tonight Show, plays on two of the tracks, both produced by Walker at Eubanks’ studio in Los Angeles. They feature Joe and Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Henry Oden on bass, Jeff Minieweather on drums and Ellis Blacknell, Jr. on keyboards. Minieweather has played in Walker’s touring band at different times over a dozen years, and Oden has been a stalwart bassist at various periods since the first JLW release on HighTone back in 1986. Eubanks also co-wrote the two tracks with Walker, Blacknell and Joe Russo— “If There’s a Heaven” (which manages to combine both blues and gospel in one amazing brew) and “I’ve Been Down.”

Several of the other songs on Between a Rock and the Blues were written by friends of the artist, who then gives his own personal touch to contemporary blues songs written by Duke Robillard (“Tell Me Why”) and Murali Coryell, (son of jazz/rock fusion guitar great Larry Coryell), adding pepper to the mix. Coryell’s song, “Way Too Expensive,” is a pertinent comment on the current economic situation. Songs from other Walker favorites — Ray Charles’ “Blackjack,” Roy Gaines’ “Big Fine Woman” and Travis Phillips’ “Eyes Like a Cat — round out the CD.

As the album’s title implies, Walker pushes the boundaries of the blues further than he has in the past, creating an exhilarating sound that has an electrifying energy, while remaining firmly rooted in his foundation of blues, soul, gospel and R&B.

Background: In many ways, Walker’s story is unusual. Born in San Francisco (on Christmas Day 1949) and now based in Westchester, New York, he was part of the Bay Area blues scene in his early teens, and by the time he was 16 he had soaked up the sounds of the likes of T-Bone Walker, Amos Milburn, and boogie woogie pioneers Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson. As he grew up, he found himself on stage with such disparate tutors as John Lee Hooker, Thelonious Monk, the Soul Stirrers, Steve Miller and Jimi Hendrix.

“I was hanging in Haight-Asbury long before it became gentrified; the old Fillmore Auditorium was the place I saw James Brown and Little Richard and Bobby Bland and the Temptations,” he remembers now. “I went to school a short block away — but I guess that the Fillmore was, in a way, my real school.”

By the time he was 19, he had built a close friendship with guitarist Mike Bloomfield — they were roommates for many years. It was Bloomfield’s tragic early death that persuaded Walker to change his life: He enrolled at San Francisco State University, earning music and English degrees — and performing regularly with a gospel group, The Spiritual Corinthians.

In 1985, he returned to the blues, fronting a new band he called “The Bosstalkers”, and making the first of five albums for HighTone, before signing to PolyGram’s Verve/Gitanes label, for whom he recorded another six albums. In addition to releases on several other labels, Walker has also performed on countless albums as a guest with artists ranging from B. B. King to Peter Green.

These early records served as an entrée into the European market. Sterling appearances at major festivals throughout Europe (North Sea Jazz Festival, Glastonbury, Nice, Notodden and Montreux among them) led to further tours and festivals in Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Ireland, Turkey and Brazil— a foreign touring schedule he continues to match, year after year, while continuing to compile an impressive list of awards throughout Europe.

In 1988 Joe Louis Walker performed for President George H. W. Bush at a non partisan roots musical presentation called “The Celebration for Young America, alongside such artists as Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, Joe Cocker, Ron Wood, Willie Dixon and Koko Taylor, among others. He was also an integral part of the musical presentation to induct B. B. King into the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995 — a command performance for President Clinton by Etta James, Steve Cropper, Bonnie Raitt and others.

Witness to the Blues, Joe Louis Walker’s debut for Stony Plain (also produced by Duke Robillard), generated enormous critical acclaim and hit #1 on the Living Blues magazine radio chart; it was recently voted as one of the top best blues albums of the year in the annual Down Beat Critics’ Poll

Foreground: Joe Louis Walker is a walking encyclopedia of blues history as well as blues vocal and guitar styles. “I think this new CD is self-explanatory,” Walker says. “It was also a challenge. At times musicians get jaded, and I try to guard against that. Like my heroes, my dream was always to play my music in as many different places as I can. That keeps you fresh. For sure.

And the future of the blues? Echoing a song by Muddy Water’s piano man Otis Spann recorded 30 years ago, Walker says the blues will never die. “Every new generation of kids coming up keeps it alive. I’ve heard young blues players in Turkey, the UK, Europe and the United States. Blues music is at the root of rock and roll — the blues is the building block that almost all popular music rests on."

Joe Louis Walker - The Best Of The Stony Plain Years

Joe Louis Walker - The Best Of The Stony Plain Years
SPCD 1375
Genre: Blues
Released: May 2014
Stony Plain was honoured to release three highly acclaimed Joe Louis Walker albums, including Between A Rock And The Blues which won the Blues Foundation’s "Blues Album Of The Year" Award in 2010.
  1. Eyes Like A Cat (3:48)
  2. Highview (6:50)
  3. Hustlin' (5:14)
  4. Black Widow Spider (4:54)
  5. I'm Tide (3:53)
  6. Sugar Mama (6:25)
  7. Slow Down GTO (6:10)
  8. Ain't That Cold (5:50)
  9. You're Gonna Make Me Cry (8:07)
  10. Send You Back (4:17)
  11. Witness (6:10)

Blues Conspiracy: Live On The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise

Blues Conspiracy: Live On The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
SPCD 1353
Genre: Blues
Released: 28 September 2010
  1. Slow Down "GTO" (Listen to mp3 clip) (5:49)
    * free full length download *
  2. Ain't That Cold (6:08) featuring Johnny Winter
  3. You're Gonna Make Me Cry (Listen to mp3 clip) (8:04) featuring Curtis Salgado & Mike Finnigan
  4. Eyes Like A Cat (5:46) featuring Tommy Castro, Tom Poole, Deanna Bogart & Keith Crossan
  5. Ten More Shows To Play (5:44) featuring Kirk Fletcher
  6. Born In Chicago (5:53) featuring Jason Ricci, Paris Slim & Nick Moss
  7. Sugar Mama (11:59) featuring Watermelon Slim
  8. Tell Me Why (7:10) featuring Duke Robillard & Todd Sharpville
  9. A Poor Man's Plea (Listen to mp3 clip) (5:15) featuring Kenny Neal
  10. It's A Shame (5:25) featuring Linwood Taylor, Kevin Burton, Henry Oden & Jeff Minnieweather
  11. 747 (6:33) featuring Paul Nelson, Tab Benoit & Mitch Woods

Reviews:

Midwest Record
By Chris Spector
This might be a good argument that the best way to experience Walker is live. Here we find him out at sea with a bunch of blues and rock hitters just letting the good times roll because, well, where are they going to go. The electricity is in the air as cats that you didn’t think knew each other kick it out on tunes that stray pretty far afield from the usual jam session cuts. High octane party fun that’ll easily take you back to the college era roadhouses where you wasted your youth (or should have). Fun stuff throughout that makes you wish you were there.

Between A Rock And The Blues

Between A Rock And The Blues
SPCD 1345
Genre: Blues
Released: 15 September 2009
  1. I'm Tide (Listen to mp3 clip) (3:57)
    * free full length download *
  2. Eyes Like A Cat (3:50)
  3. Black Widow Spider (4:58)
  4. If There's A Heaven (6:41)
  5. Way Too Expensive (4:23)
  6. I've Been Down (5:33)
  7. Prisoner Of Mercy (4:08)
  8. Hallways (7:34)
  9. Tell Me Why (5:44)
  10. Blackjack (7:21)
  11. Big Fine Woman (4:47)
  12. Send You Back (4:17)

Reviews:

rambles.net
By Jerome Clark
Walker is fluent in all the blues languages

Witness To The Blues

Witness To The Blues
SPCD 1337
Genre: Blues
Released: 16 September 2008
  1. It's A Shame (Listen to mp3 clip) (6:16)
  2. Midnight Train (4:17)
  3. Lover's Holiday (Listen to mp3 clip) (4:14) Duet with Shemekia Copeland
  4. Hustlin' (5:16)
  5. Witness (6:07)
  6. Rollin' & Tumblin' (Listen to mp3 clip) (4:53)
  7. Highview (6:48)
  8. I Got What You Need (5:14)
  9. Keep On Believin' (4:27)
  10. 100% More Man (7:12)
  11. Sugar Mama (6:25)

Reviews:

Blues Revue - Dec/Jan 2009
By Hal Horowitz
No matter what he's singing, Walker's churchy approach is soulful, heartfelt, and spellbinding. He seems particularly inspired on this set, perhaps because he finally has found a producer (Duke Robillard) who brings out his best.