In the Morning

by: Joe Louis Walker

Rootsier than Robert Cray, more soulful than Jimmie Vaughan, and boasting a gospel background similar to the great Sam Cooke, Joe Louis Walker is a contemporary soul/bluesman who flawlessly and effortlessly mixes his diverse influences. On his first album in three years (and Telarc label debut), Walker proves he's an artist capable of terse, searing guitar solos, as on the R&B "Do You Wanna' Be With Me?"; mid-tempo, jazzy soul such as "Leave that Girl Alone"; or rugged acoustic Delta blues like the appropriate album-closing "Strangers in Our House." Walker -- who began his career playing religious music -- not surprisingly proves himself a more than adequate soul/gospel vocalist in the Al Green vein on the spiritual "Where Jesus Leads." In fact, the Memphis groove is infused through much of this album, with Walker's simmering version of the Stones' "2120 South Michigan Avenue" sounding like a lost Booker T. & the MG's B-side. But he's at his strongest when plowing through gritty, Southern-styled swamp-rocking R&B, as on "Strange Love," the album's strongest track, where he shouts, growls, howls, and testifies like Wilson Pickett in his prime. Walker is in full control throughout, moaning and crooning in a honey-and-grits style that is immediately recognizable. Even when he plays it straight on "Joe's Jump," Walker sounds invigorated, whipping off piercing leads even in a timeworn shuffle style. The opening tracks, "You're Just About to Lose Your Crown" with its bubbling Latin percussion, and the easygoing groove of the title tune smoothly coalesce Walker's soul, blues, and gospel roots. One of the versatile musician's most consistently successful albums, this is convincing proof that Joe Louis Walker is one of the most overlooked and distinctive artists working in the soul/blues genre. ~ Hal Horowitz

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.