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Joe Louis Walker

Between a Rock and the Blues

(Stony Plain; US: 29 Sep 2009; UK: 29 Sep 2009)

Last year, Joe Louis Walker teamed up with producer/guitarist Duke Robillard and cut Witness to the Blues, the San Francisco-born bluesman’s 19th album in 23 years and debut for Stony Plain. The record was such a success that the couple decided to have another go-around. As its title suggests, Between a Rock and the Blues defies easy categorization. More so than its predecessor or earlier outings for Hightone and Verve, Walker’s usual eclectic mix of soul-blues (“Way Too Expensive”), jumping juke-joint R&B (“Prisoner of Misery”), and country-blues (“Send You Back”) now has a thick vein of string-bending guitar rock coursing through it, too. “I’m Tide” starts things off and throws guitar shapes in the general direction of some fine driving southern blues-rock, while “If There’s a Heaven”, one of two tracks co-written with former The Tonight Show music director Kevin Eubanks, who also guests on guitar, is a slab of greasy gospel-blues sliced through with serrating slide-guitar. The album’s real highlight comes when Walker, his voice pitched somewhere between Bobby “Blue” Bland and Wilson Pickett and enhanced by punchy sax and shimmering organ, gets down and soulful on the autobiographical “Black Widow Spider”.

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4 May 2014
An album of contrasts with some killer moments, but lacking a bit of a sting.
31 Jan 2012
A strong collection of tunes from a blues guitar stalwart.
By Chip O'Brien
28 Jul 2003
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