Joe Louis Walker
Weight of The World
Forty Below Records
Sharp and Contemporary Blues With a Soul Filled Heart
Joe Louis Walker is one of those ‘names’ that I recognised, but when I scoped through my collections of albums and downloads found I own nothing of his previous work – sad but true.
Right from the ‘git go’ of opening track and titular song Weight Of The World you know you are in the presence of a Mastercraftsman of their Art ….. a really clever and heartfelt ballad about the sadness that is all purveying these days; but wrapped in a velvet blanket of musicians who never waste or miss a note; and in Walker’s vocal delivery …. a voice that will warm your heart at the same time as sending shivers down your back.
Walker has a sublime talent in the way he delivers his message throughout; Waking Up The Dead is a prime example; blending African style drumbeats with an ultra-modern; jazz tinged beat that sounds like a minor earthquake as Walker sings as if his life depends on it; but never loses the listener’s attention even for a second.
It’s a similar story with Count Your Chickens where the energy playing out behind him would overshadow many another singer; but Joe Louis Walker fights them off with a stellar performance up front and centre.
Presumably many of his fan base will buy this to hear his guitar playing; for which he’s rightly famous … and there’s plenty here to please them; although he’s more of the ‘less is more’ school …. but when he does insert a solo ….. WOWZA …. that guitar sounds like it could melt at any moment.
Personally I like this album as much as I do because of the songs themselves; even though the construction and arrangements are fabulous throughout; but it really is the stories in the songs that have made me play this over and over again; not least the intense Bed of Roses and It’s a Matter of Time which has hints of Stevie Wonder and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson in the mix; and that’s no bad thing; is it.
Eric Corne’s razor sharp production brings out plenty of nuance too in Don’t Walk Out The Door and perhaps Root Down too; which could easily have been missed in lesser hands.
I’m not totally sure where to fit this album in, as while it’s most certainly a Blues Album, but there are more than enough elements of Soul (both urban and raw) that it could easily win prizes in that category too; not least when the judges hear the finale; Got Me Whipped; but then again Scott Milici’s gentle keyboard playing subtly takes this ballad into Jazz territory too.
I’ve been really impressed by Walker’s songwriting throughout; but one song in particular Hello, It’s The Blues highlights what a clever and articulate songwriter he is; as he treats us to beautiful conversation between the listener and a Guardian Angel in the guise of The Blues as a talking entity …. don’t worry; it’s a stunning song that my words don’t do justice to … listen and be seriously impressed.
Sometimes songs and albums are too clever for their good; but here Joe Louis Walker pushes the boundaries of what we know as Blues and Soul, but stays well within those same lines to give us an ultra-modern album that will impress not just hipsters and the cognoscenti but cynical old Blues Hounds alike.
Released February 17th 2023
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