Ira Walker – Be That Man
Arm Records – 2023
10 tracks; 35 minutes
As a musician and artist, Ira Walker has had an incredible journey and one heck of a ride. According to the in-sleeve of his latest album, Be That Man, as a teenager Walker took lessons from legendary Bay Area drummer Larry Vann and in his early twenties quit a band, traded in his gear, and walked over to a bar next door. While pondering what to do with his life, Walker met Eddie Money, who bought him a beer and told Walker that he was “looking for a bass player.” Next thing Walker knew, he was playing bass for Eddie Money and, eventually, performed live in front of 50,000 fans in Oakland, California.
Be That Man encompasses Walker’s continuing journey and that heck of a ride. He has written music for and performed with a Who’s Who list of music luminaries: Steve Miller, Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana, Brian May, Keb’ Mo’, and Tommy Castro, to name just a few. As a singer and bass player, Walker played with Neal Schon of Journey and Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead. Walker says his music has that Southern Blues soul…original, authentic, and organic.
In the album credits, Walker, a multi-faceted musician himself, states that he “is the band except where noted.” Others featured on the various tracks include: Wilson Brooks (drums) and Lorenzo Hawkins (drums on tracks 3, 8, 10), Ron Cole (piano; tracks 4, 7, 8 and accordion on track 5), Charles Spikes (rhythm guitar; track 8), Andre Fyling (piano; track 5), Terry Peterson (guitar solo on track 3), Michael Robinson (piano; track 3), Nehemiah Johnson (organ; track 3), Steve Canali (slide on tracks 5, 6, 10), and Rick Baskin and Ro’ Harpo (harmonicas on track 6).
Walker, along with Will Schollar and Jeff Waluch were the executive engineers, and the album was recorded and mixed at Dundas Castle Studios in Ontario.
Be That Man hits the right notes with tracks like “Imaginary Woman” with its slow, steady rhythm that builds upon a strong piano and “If You Were Mine,” a rollicking country-blues style tune featuring a terrific guitar intro and solo. “I Can’t Forget” brings Walker’s authenticity to light, along with a “brassy” backbeat and showcasing Ron Cole’s superb piano playing.
The album’s title track, “Be That Man,” shows an organic soulful intensity, along with Walker’s intense musicianship. Another soulful song, “Be Alone” also features Cole’s keyboard chops and an easy-feeling bluesy beat.
Upbeat and funky with a great refrain, “Creole Stew” fits the true-to-form organic label Walker specializes in and features terrific slide guitar from Steve Canali and Andre Fyling on piano. Finally, “Western Hero” takes the listener back home and downhome with its plodding beat, Canali on slide, and mesmerizing harps from Baskin and Harpo.
For Ira Walker, “music is medicine” and Be That Man is just what the good doctor ordered.