Joe Louis Walker
Stony Plain

On a unique journey through the blues that has taken him through gospel, Memphis soul, Latin music (2002’s Pasa Tiempo, a meshing of blues, soul and R&B with a Latin foundation), funk and rock ‘n’ roll, Joe Louis Walker, with another able assist from producer Duke Robillard, gets back to the basics on Between A Rock And the Blues, his 20th album. Like last year’s powerful Witness To The Blues, this new long player really does witness to the blues—urban and country both—as well as to southern soul and classic R&B. But in the end Walker brings it all back to straight ahead, fundamental electric blues with minimal embroidery and a whole lot of wit, advice to the lovelorn and, not least of all, powerhouse guitar. Out of the gate Walker scorches the fretboard with the searing, howling solos he fashions on the driving “I’m Tide” (evidence of the Walker wit in action—the title is his phonetic spelling of “tired,” as in “I’m getting sick and tide/sick and tide of you!”), a rouser further enhanced by Walker’s frisky vocal and the energetic organ pulses courtesy Bruce Katz. From that straight-ahead, hard driving blues he stomps into the furious, horn-enriched ‘50s-style R&B of “Eyes Like a Cat.” So, in his scintillating, mostly original, impressively literate fare, our man assays some deliciously yearning Muscle Shoals-influenced southern soul (“Black Widow Spider”), grinding, midtempo blues spiritually centered on Chicago’s South Side (“Prisoner of Misery”), and rich, atmospheric blues ballads (“Hallways,” a dark, brooding chronicle of abject loneliness an betrayal from the pen of Steve Hall, its misery taken to exalted realms on the strength of Walker’s plaintive, tear-stained vocal and trebly, crying guitar punctuations, plus a striking, ruminative piano solo by Katz defined largely by its anxious rolling runs). The most striking deviation from the pattern is the churning “Big Fine Woman,” which finds Walker in flat-out begging mode (“you got to give me some/give me some, baby!” he moans unabashedly) and complementing his vocal pleadings with a long, serpentine rush of wah-wah guitar growls, as Katz again buttresses the arrangement with some tasty organ comping and soloing. Always a treat on a Joe Louis Walker album, his Delta-style acoustic blues guitar along with Sugar Ray Norcia’s howling and moaning harmonica retorts are all that’s necessary to get our man worked up to righteous indignation over his woman’s unsavory behavior, leading to the unambiguous promise to “Send You Back” from whence she came, because “this love don’t seem to work out right.” Generous to a fault, though, JLW offers to help her pack her bag “and your mother’s china too,” as well as pay her taxi fare and plane ticket home. These are values to live by, yet another of the many important life lessons Mr. Walker divulges on Between A Rock And The Blues. We await further instruction. –David McGee

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Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024