11 tracks; 53 minutes
Joe Louis Walker has always been a prolific artist and his latest (and 24th solo album) sees another change of label as, after two very well received albums on Alligator, Joe is now a Provogue artist. This album is a small band format with just Phillip Young’s keys, Lenny Bradford’s bass and Byron Cage’s drums supporting Joe’s vocals, guitar and harp; producer Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter) adds rhythm guitar to two tracks and Damon Grant’s percussion enhances one cut. The material here is a fairly even split between originals and covers, Joe having a hand in writing five tunes.
The title track leads the way with Joe’s strong core riff well supported by the band in the opening section. Joe then sings of the problems of fame when “everybody wants a piece of your love” over bubbling bass, a stop-start rhythm and some aggressive soloing from Joe. Taj Mahal’s “Do I Love Her” suffers from some unpleasantly sharp harp from Joe that, for this reviewer, detracts from the track – a shame as the rest works fine. Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming’s “Buzz On You” fares far better with a clearer sound, a solid vocal from Joe and an excellent guitar solo that matches the rock n’ roll feel set by Phillip’s piano work throughout. Joe uses his experience of gospel singing to deliver an impassioned vocal on the slower paced original “Black & Blue” which also features a typical JLW solo that builds from some strange noodling to some fiery sustains at its peak. “Witchcraft” is a standard from 1957 though whether original hitmaker Frank Sinatra would recognize JLW’s take on the Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh song is debatable! Joe’s highly charged guitar plays over his own choppy rhythm work, Phillip’s slabs of keyboard and a rhythm section beefed up with extra percussion from Damon.
It is rare to hear a song by the ‘other writer’ in early Fleetwood Mac, Danny Kirwan. His “One Sunny Day” appeared on 1970’s “Then Play On” and was covered by Tinsley Ellis back in the 1990’s. The feature of Danny singing over his guitar is well replicated by Joe though his take on the song ramps up the heavier side of the guitar playing. Joe plays at a gentler pace on the band-composed instrumental “Gospel Blues” which leads on to the traditional gospel piece “Wade In The Water” which is really well done, Joe again using his gospel experience well. A real contrast in terms of subject matter, Buddy Guy’s “Man Of Many Words” is played here in a funky version with what sounds like a horn chorus but must be synthesized. Two originals close out the album: “Young Girl Blues” is a fun shuffle with plenty of piano and some very nice playing from Joe in and around the main riff, as Joe recognizes that he is captivated by a 17 year-old; “35 Years” finds the object of his desire being a little older, but Joe is still in thrall to this lady. This fast-paced little number has a lot of Joe’s slide work and a bit more of his harp work, Paul Nelson playing some acoustic rhythm underneath.
Overall this is an album that has several highlights (“Buzz On You”, “Wade In The Water”, “Young Girl Blues”) and a few occasions where the playing is a bit too wild for this reviewer’s tastes. Joe’s albums always have something that commands attention and his legion of fans are sure to enjoy this latest addition to his catalog.
Editor’s Note: This album is nominated for a 2016 Blues Music awards for Rock Blues Album of the Year.