There are three good reasons for enjoying Joe Louis Walker. For one, while he sits firmly in the tradition of electric blues, he likes to innovate. For another, he’s at home in a variety of blues styles. And last but not least, he has a tremendous sense of fun.
|JLW - all kinds of blue|
All these traits are in evidence throughout this London gig kicking off a series of UK and European dates. The swinging credentials of his band are evident from the off, on the R’n’B of ‘I’m Not Messin’’, and reinforced on ‘T-Bone Shuffle’, a song which goes back to Walker’s contribution to BB King’s Grammy-winning Blues Summit album of 1993. Walker’s exhortations to ‘let your hair hang down and have a natch’l ball’ hit the nail on the head, as he shows off his guitar chops with a witty, wonky guitar solo.
A subsequent slow blues instrumental underlines the jazzy quality to his playing. But where jazz stylings often end up sounding studied and self-indulgent, in Walker’s hands the result is entertainment not ego, full of unexpected twists and turns and playful tones that regularly brings laughs from bassist Lenny Bradford.
Walker has a background in gospel music, and it continues to play a large part in his work, making good use of his strong and expressive voice. Here he cranks up some chunky rhythm guitar on ‘Soldier Of Jesus’, but the real highlight is the classic ‘Wade In The Water’ from his latest album Everybody Wants A Piece, which takes off into a heavy funk workout with Travis Reed delivering a belting organ solo.
Meanwhile Walker comes over all Chuck Berry on a blistering run through ‘Around And Around’, before highlighting teasing slide on Earl Hooker’s ‘Blue Guitar’, and some more meaty riffing under another Reed keyboard solo. All the while Bradford on bass interlocks tightly with Reed’s keys and Byron Cage on drums, with Cage also following his leader’s guitar to punctuate the solos.
|Kat Pearson payin' dues|
By the time we get to ‘One Time Around’ a dance vibe has taken hold, and it’s party time for sure on the encore of ‘Too Drunk To Drive’, with its ‘Peter Gunn’-ish theme embellished by forays into the riffs of ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘All Day And All Of The Night’.
All round it’s a performance that demonstrates Joe Louis Walker is the real deal, and one of the leading lights of modern electric blues, as well as a connection to its past.
Openers Kat & Co start their set in quiet fashion but gradually hit their stride, with Kat Pearson’s resonant vocals and Francesco Accurso’s piercing guitar well to the fore. By the time they’ve rattled off a ‘Rollin’ An’ Tumblin’ variant and got stuck into ‘Payin’ My Dues’ they’re getting well into it, and arousing plenty of audience interest for the rest of their brief set.