Joe Louis Walker is one of the most prolific and consistently creative artists on today’s blues scene. Walker’s latest recordings for Alligator Records, Hellfire and Hornet’s Nest, both showcase a lean, hard-edged sound that betrays a strong rock influence, but listeners who prefer Walker’s more traditional side will enjoy the new compilation The Best of the Stony Plain Years. Culled from three different albums, the compilation features Walker performing everything from swinging shuffles to gospel-tinged soul.
Although he’s a powerhouse singer and guitarist in his own right, Walker has always been generous about sharing the spotlight with other musicians. On the high energy tunes “Eyes Like a Cat” and “Hustlin,” keyboardist Bruce Katz is given plenty of room to stretch out. When Walker sings. “I’ve been hustlin’ baby – hustlin’ my life away,” he’s got the years and the mileage to sound like he means it. The live tracks recorded during the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise offer further evidence of Walker’s gregarious spirit. A tightly honed three piece horn section adds heft to the spirited “Slow Down GTO.” When Walker invites Johnny Winter to lend his inimitable slide guitar to “Ain’t That Cold,” you can hear the reverence in his voice.
When a musician is as active as Joe Louis Walker, fans have no shortage of recordings to choose from. A deep respect for blues tradition and joyous ensemble playing make The Best of the Stony Plain Years worth seeking out.
– Jon Kleinman