John Earl Walker – Mustang Blues
Walkright Records WR265
10 songs – 48 minutes
Veteran New York City guitarist John Earl Walker fell in love with the straight-ahead blues sound of Jimmy Reed as a 13-year-old, and has been delivering one helping serving after another of traditional blues ever since, as Mustang Blues, his sixth solo CD, clearly shows.
Now in his 60s, he played Carnegie Hall with the band Plum Nelly while still a teen, opening the show for The James Gang, and, for years, was a member of the house band at Unganos, the popular Manhattan watering hole that served as the unofficial home to many folks in the recording industry while offering up a lineup that included Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley and many mainstream blues stars.
Joining Walker for this all-original, self-produced effort are Gene Cordew on keyboards, long-time band mate Peter Harris on bass and Frank Diorio on drums. Steve Ress, who stood alongside John Earl in Plum Nelly, makes a guest appearance on slide guitar for the first cut.
The ensemble blends perfectly to deliver a set of original material with a comfortable, familiar feel. John Earl is a talented guitarist who slides effortlessly across the fret board while never attempting to be a guitar hero. His smoky vocals solidly match his playing, staying within his comfort zone throughout, relaxed and self-assured.
A familiar loping bass line introduces “Hey Baby,” a medium-paced shuffle that gives Walker time to stretch out on guitar before delivering a warm greeting to a lady he’s loved, but hasn’t seen in a long time. “The Devil Follows Me” is a simple tune about following bad advice. The singer attempts to converse with the fallen angel in a futile attempt to break the connection, vowing that he’d been fooled once, but won’t be fooled again.
“Mustang Blues” is an autobiographical tune that hints of “Mustang Sally” and deals with the difficulties of owning a car in New York City, complete with images of policemen with radar guns, expensive tickets and girls who want to ride. A five-minute instrumental, “Funkify,” leads into a song of separation with a definite West Side Chicago feel. Entitled “I’m Already Gone,” it clearly states that the lady shouldn’t darken the singer’s door after turning her back on him when he needed her most, not wanting him anymore.
“My Mama Told Me” carries the message forward atop another loping blues pattern before Walker relives the real-life agony of losing almost all of his possessions to a severe tropical storm that battered the Northeastern U.S. a few years ago in “Superstorm Sandy Blues.” It’s an emotion-packed, burning slow blues with images of evacuation warnings, rising floodwaters and the stark realization after returning that the home was unfit for future habitation.
Two relationship songs follow. “Readjust” is a blues-rocker that deals with the aftermath of a girlfriend leaving rather than recovery from the deluge, while “One Plus One” speaks about the discovery that the woman has been cheating. The appropriately titled “Even Up The Score” concludes the set.
Available through iTunes and CDBaby, Mustang Blues is perfect for you if you’re a traditionalist with a love for rock-solid barroom blues.