Between a Rock and the Blues

Between a Rock and the Blues

by Joe Louis WalkerJoe Louis Walker


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San Francisco blues guitar king Joe Louis Walker has been purveying his biting brand of West Coast blues since the '60s, with time off for good behavior (literally -- he spent years going "straight" attending school and playing gospel). On Between a Rock and the Blues he manages to keep one foot in the L.A. blues he grew up on (T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, et al.) and the other in a more modern sound, both in his songwriting and his impassioned fretwork. On the likes of "Eyes Like a Cat" and "Way Too Expensive," Walker's seasoned band whips up a sassy, swinging, old-school jump blues feel, while "Tell Me Why" leans into a classic-sounding Chicago-style shuffle. Walker's voice, still lithe and clear at 58, rings out authoritatively over it all, and his concise, stinging guitar makes no apologies for asserting its dominion over all it surveys. An unplugged stab at Delta blues on "Send You Back" feels less convincing, but other cuts, such as album-opening "I'm Tide" [sic] and "If There's a Heaven" show off a crunchier, grittier, more rock-inflected guitar tone and a compositional sensibility to match. When Walker taps into this more modern-sounding mode, though, it's important to realize there's no pandering involved. Even though his roots go back way further, he didn't begin establishing his own sound as a solo recording artist until the '80s, so it's entirely natural for his style to have picked up some rock & roll attack along the way. Crucially, he never overdoes it, maintaining just the right balance between the understated and the in-your-face. He hasn't stopped growing as a songwriter either -- Walker's original tunes dominate the album, and they reveal both a strict avoidance of lyrical blues tropes and a knack for deftly inserting thoughtful observations in between burning riffs and gut-level grooves.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/29/2009
Label: Stony Plain Music
UPC: 0772532134521
catalogNumber: 321345
Rank: 116933

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Joe Louis Walker   Primary Artist,Electric Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar,Slide Guitar
Duke Robillard   Electric Guitar
Bruce Katz   Organ,Piano
Kevin Eubanks   Electric Guitar
Doug James   Saxophone
Jeff Minnieweather   Drums
Sugar Ray Norcia   Harp
Henry Oden   Electric Bass
Jesse Williams   Electric Bass,Acoustic Bass
Mark Teixeira   Percussion,Drums
Ellis Blacknell   Organ,Piano

Technical Credits

Joe Louis Walker   Composer,Producer
Ray Charles   Composer
Duke Robillard   Composer,Producer
Roy Gaines   Composer
Leon Haywood   Composer
Robert Biles   Engineer
Kevin Eubanks   Composer
John Paul Gauthier   Engineer
Steve Hall   Composer
Murali Coryell   Composer
Joe Russo   Composer
Travis Phillips   Composer
Ellis Blacknell   Composer

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