Joe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest | Album Review

joelouiswalkercdJoe Louis Walker – Hornet’s Nest

Alligator Records

12 tracks; 52 minutes

They say that if you want a job done well, ask a busy man. Well, the man to ask to produce your record therefore has to be Nashville’s Tom Hambridge whose hand has been at the controls for a slew of discs recently, from heavyweights Buddy Guy and James Cotton to newcomers like Dana Robbins. Tom also produced Joe’s 2012 album “Hellfire” and they have reunited on this one to good effect. The band consists of some of the ‘usual suspects’: Tom on drums and backing vocals, Tommy McDonald on bass, Reese Wynans on keys and Rob McNelley on rhythm guitar, with Joe’s vocals and lead guitar. The material is mainly original, Joe co-writing four songs with one or both of Tom and Tom’s regular writing partner Richard Fleming who contribute five songs of their own, alongside three covers.

Joe can cover most of the bases in blues, soul and rock and also has a history of gospel work, so variety is the name of the game here. The title track is hard-hitting blues rock with a catchy chorus, Joe’s tough, angular riffs sitting on top of some wah-wah rhythm work by Rob. The second track is a complete contrast as Joe delivers a classic piece of soul music with the Muscle Shoals horn section in support. This is such a strong track that it is a shame that this is the only instance of horns on the CD – perhaps a full album of horn-driven material next time, Joe? The slower “As The Sun Goes Down” is a classic tale of the guy whose girl has left him and all that is left is the blues – a clear signal for Joe to wring some torrid notes from his guitar. More upbeat is the amusingly titled shuffle “Stick A Fork In Me” in which Joe blends cooking and romance: “Stick a fork in me, baby, ‘cos I’m done with you”!

“Don’t Let Go”, a Jesse Stone song originally a 1958 hit for Roy Hamilton and covered by Jerry Lee Lewis and Jerry Garcia amongst others finds Joe accompanied on vocals by Ray Walker, Curtis Young and Michael Black on a rock and roll/doo-wop song that allows Joe to return to his gospel roots, a feeling accentuated by Reese’s churchy organ. “Love Enough” starts slowly with a rhythm part that recalls “Crossroads” before Reese’s piano joins in. Joe’s solo has plenty of bends and sustains but retains the slight country blues feel of the start. Things get rockier on “Ramblin’ Soul”, Joe letting loose with some strong riffs on guitar. “Ride On, Baby” is an obscure Jagger/Richards song (from the “Flowers” album) and it’s a highlight with Reese’s great piano work at its heart and a ringing chorus which suits Joe’s voice perfectly, well supported by Tom’s b/v’s. Less successful is the frantic version of Kid Andersen’s “Soul City”, a song that seems to claim that title for every music city in the USA!

Joe gets his slide out on “I’m Gonna Walk Outside” which has all the hallmarks of a slow blues, as Joe’s opening lines show: “A married woman, a back door man; the loaded pistol in your husband’s hand. If I don’t quit you, baby, I’m gonna be six feet in the ground”. Joe gets some dark and moody tones from his slide on this one, well supported by Reese’s rolling piano. In contrast the hard-rocking “Not In Kansas Anymore” recalls 70’s rock with its opening use of echoing synth and Joe lets rip on guitar in probably the heaviest solo on the album. After that aural assault “Keep The Faith” closes the album in quieter mood and Joe is again joined by the three vocalists used on “Don’t Let Go” for some pure gospel sounds with a stirring message: “Remember that love is the strength, Lord, in our lives”.

Joe is a prolific recording artist who always produces some fine moments on his albums and this one is no exception. Another winner from the Tom Hambridge production line.

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