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Joe Louis Walker: Silvertone Blues

Ed Kopp By

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Tradition-minded newcomers like Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb’ Mo’ and Corey Harris have spurred an acoustic-blues renaissance over the past few years. Now one of the most respected electric bluesmen on the scene, Joe Louis Walker, has opted to pull the plug on his guit.

Named for the 1930s acoustic guitar Walker plays on over half these songs, Silvertone Blues is an excellent listen. Traditional without sounding antique, this 12-song collection offers a fervent mix of devil-fearing Delta blues, Mississippi-meets-Chicago blues reminiscent of Robert Nighthawk, and slide-driven boogie a la Elmore James. Mr. Walker does some serious vocal testifying and nifty picking on Silvertone, dobro, electric slide and other guitars. He even tickles the ivories on "Bad Luck Blues." Guest musicians Hart (guitar), harmonica legend James Cotton, and two-fisted piano-pumper Kenny Wayne provide spunky backing.

Walker is well versed in the roots of the blues. For one thing, he spent a decade with the Spiritual Corinthians, a gospel group in his native San Francisco, before returning to the mother blues in 1986. Whether it’s Chicago-style electric, Stax-style R&B or acoustic country blues, Walker’s music retains a gospel feel. Silvertone Blues is his most intimate album to date.

The first track "Runnin’ From The Devil" borrows its premise from Son House’s "Preachin’ Blues." Walker and Cotton do a fine Sonny Terry-Brownie McGhee impersonation on "Change My Ways." "Born in Mississippi" is a fun tribute to Jimmy Reed, while Wayne’s rollicking piano on "Kenny’s Barrelhouse" and "Trouble On Wheels" sets the blood to boiling. No matter which guitar Walker wields, his solos are succinct enough so that they don't overpower his songs, but fiery enough to satisfy.

With Silvertone Blues, Joe Louis Walker secures his reputation as one of our most versatile blues musicians. Recorded live in the studio, this music is raw and emotional – just the way the blues ought to feel.

Title: Silvertone Blues | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Blue Thumb Records

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