Everybody Wants a Piece

by: Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker is one of the most interesting guitarists on the contemporary blues scene, not to mention one of the most prolific; 2015's Everybody Wants a Piece is Walker's 25th album since he made his debut with 1986's Cold Is the Night, and it hardly sounds like the work of someone padding his résumé. Walker is a player who keeps his music lively by mixing up the formula, folding plenty of rock, R&B, and Latin influences into his work instead of laying out the typical 12-bar figures all over again, and Everybody Wants a Piece finds him shaking it up with impressive results, especially on the wah-wah-fortified and rocked-up cover of "Witchcraft," a slinky interpretation of "Wade in the Water" that mixes up gospel and funk influences, the rollicking boogie-woogie of "Buzz on You," and the slide guitar shuffle of "35 Years Old." Walker and his band -- Lenny Bradford on bass, Phillip Young on keys, and Byron Cage on drums -- are in tight form on these sessions, sounding solidly professional but just fresh enough that these tunes still have plenty of life. Everybody Wants a Piece is a fine piece of work that unfortunately suffers in comparison to the albums that came before it; while 2012's Hellfire and 2014's Hornet's Nest found Walker expanding his boundaries even more than usual and making thoughtful use of the studio, this set is strong but takes fewer risks, and Paul Nelson's production is clean but workmanlike, capturing the performances but not giving them any added textures that would bring out the nuances of this fine band in action. But if this isn't a great Joe Louis Walker album, it's still a pretty good one, and the man's stellar soloing, biting harp work, and forceful vocals are reason enough for anyone who digs contemporary blues to give this a few spins. ~ Mark Deming

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