Joe Louis Walker – Weight of the World
Unlike many other blues-based artists the San Francisco-born award-winning Joe Louis Walker has a more melodic vocal style which is quite accessible to an unaccustomed ear. Walker may pepper a tune with a flashy well-timed guitar solo or use pump-action brass blasts that are tempting accentuations for songs that hover around a soul-based rootsy aesthetic. Songs like these require a heave-ho to maintain their consistency & Walker has it down to a science.
This new set is a well-balanced sampling of the many influences Walker (electric, slide & nylon string guitars/harmonica/vocals) digested through the years. A hat-tip to soul, blues, gospel, a pinch of funk, balladry, roots & even a dalliance with jazz. Bottom line is that it’s entertaining throughout.
Recorded in Marlboro, NY & Encino, CA with Grammy-nominated producer Eric Corne (John Mayall, Walter Trout) the 48-minute Weight of the World (Drops Feb. 17–Forty Below Records) is a full bag of 10 delicious tracks that provide a diversified showcase. It even delves into a dalliance with Sam Cooke-Marvin Gaye’s smoothness with “Hello, It’s The Blues.” Though Walker leans more into his falsetto side than his natural voice he maintains generously the drama & power to keep it compelling.
A favorite is the funky-rocky “Waking Up the Dead,” with its crisp snare beat, galloping bass line & Walker’s superb vocal thrust. Then comes the tight & rousing, rocking “Count Your Chickens,” & the sizzling “Blue Mirror,” – both a bit old-school, but this is how you take a song to its limits. This is when you cook with fire. Plenty of room musically for improvisation – an imaginative presentation & is infectious to dancing feet. Even your toes will move.
Walker never suffers limitations – he allows one to enjoy his music & its arrangements for its sensual qualities, its groove that gets into your feet, the vibe that gets into your hands, its melodic surprises, the mood-altering qualities, its seduction through notes & beats. Creativity is important but achieving an expressive potency, with a signature performance & sound – that brings with it — joy.
Throughout the tracks the musicianship is stellar. No lapses in energy or precision. No one gets sloppy or over-active. There are no smoldering embellishments & Walker keeps it all tidy & potent because it’s enough.
Highlights – “The Weight of the World,” “Is It a Matter of Time,” “Hello, It’s The Blues,” “Waking Up the Dead,” “Don’t Walk Out That Door,” “Count Your Chickens” & “Blue Mirror.”
Musicians – Geoff Murfitt (bass), John Medeiros Jr. (drums/percussion/ background vocals), Scott Milici (Hammond & Farfisa organs/piano/Wurlitzer/Fender Rhodes/clavinet/background vocals), Eddie Jackson (bongos), Eric Gorfain (violins/string arrangements), Mark Pender (trumpets/horn arrangements), David Ralicke (tenor & baritone saxes), Gia Ciambotti (background vocals) & Eric Corne (background vocals/guitar/percussion).
CD color portrait courtesy of Mickey Deneher. Color stage picture by Arnie Goodman. CD @ https://www.joelouiswalker.com/