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.
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 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.