Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Joe Louis Walker at the 100 Club

My first gig of the year featured blues guitarist and singer Joe Louis Walker at the 100 Club - part of this year's London Blues Week. In fact, Joe is the only visiting US bluesman taking part and his presence added some genuine blues credibility to the line up, which otherwise featured British R and B groups such as the Downliners Sect, Climax Blues Band and Stan Webb's Chicken Shack.
Now 68, Joe comes from San Francisco and began playing the blues aged 14. He gave it up in the seventies to concentrate on gospel music, but came back to the blues in 1986, since when he has recorded a couple of dozen albums for labels such as Hightone, Polygram, JSP and Alligator. I've seen him a few times over the years, most recently at the King Biscuit Festival a couple of years ago, and on his day he can be a dynamic performer. Last night's show didn't quite hit the heights, but it was a varied set and enjoyable.
Joe began with I'm Not Messin' Around from his Preacher and the President album, showing that both his guitar work and voice remain in good form, and he followed up with an extended instrumental featuring strong organ work from  keyboard player Steve Watts. Joe recalled that in his younger days we met up with Scotty Moore and the Jordanaires and his next number, rather surprisingly, was Don't Let Go, a song first recorded by Roy Hamilton in 1957 - more rockabilly than blues, but pleasant enough, and well supported vocally by bass player Lenny Bradford. His gospel routes shined through in Wade In The Water but the next number was another surprise in the form of George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which veered toward heavy guitar work at times. The soulful In The Morning, the title track of one of his albums came next, followed by the rather tuneless Soldier For Jesus, from the Hellfire album, which was monotonous and dominated by drumming which was a little too loud throughout.
Things picked up considerably with his next song, Black And Blue. from the 2015 album Everybody Wants A Piece, a slow, soulful number with a steady beat. Joe was joined on stage for one number by harmonica player Giles Robson, who contributed greatly to Young Girls Blues, another song from his recent album. Too Drunk To Drive Drunk came next, a track from Hellfire, which sounded remarkably Kinks like to my ears. The band left the stage and as an encore Joe performed I'm Tired before the band returned for Help Me, a song which Joe recorded with Peter Green's Splinter Group.
Overall, this was a set which showed that Joe Louis Walker is still very much a performer to see and enjoy. It was good to see the 100 Club so crowded, although I suspect that many of them will enjoy the ageing British bands rather more than I would. It seems Joe knew their taste and largely gave them what they expected and wanted.
+++ By the way, it's nearly 12 years since the first Vinyl Word was posted in January 2006. Hundreds of topics have been covered in the intervening years. Why not click on one of the months at the side and see what comes up, or type a word or words in the box at the top left to find out what's been written about a particular topic or artist.
Nick Cobban

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