Little Toby Walker, |
A new star is shining in country-blues music by the name of Little Toby Walker. His new release, Cool Hand, is almost a continuation of his successful debut album in 2001. His new recording features 15 solid tracks, illuminating such styles as folk, ragtime, traditional and country blues. Walker delivers an authentic, down-home feel, capturing the sound of Piedmont and Delta blues with perfection.
The most enjoyable qualities found on this recording are Walker's natural storytelling ability and his skillful expertise as a musician. He gently draws you into the music, holding your attention with every song. His incredible fingerpicking technique is comparable to the original bluesmasters themselves. (I was fortunate enough to observe this guitar virtuoso in action at the 2002 International Blues Challenge in Memphis back in February, where he won the prestigious solo artist of the year award.)
There's a unique feel to the music on Cool Hand that's noticeable from start to finish. You soon discover it's Walker's entertaining and expressive style, both pleasant and somewhat easygoing. His selections reflect contemporary themes instead of the usual subject matter from generations past. Good examples are "Give Me That On-Line Religion," where Walker pokes fun at Internet sites, finding salvation at G-o-d.com, or "I Can't Remember," a silly look at growing old.
Many of the tracks on Cool Hand highlight his detailed precision and blazing fretwork with either his Martin or National guitars. Walker lets loose, starting with the opening number, "It's Tough," a fiery tune that gets your toes tappin'. He changes gears with, "Swing Bean," a jazzy ragtime tune. Another upbeat track is "Baseball Blues," a hard-driving shuffle that brags about his batting abilities. Walker gives both an emotional performance and a guitar clinic with "Pretty Polly." He has some fun with, "I Like To Boogie," a classic country-blues tune. One of his finest is "Ride This Train" -- Walker's guitar really shines, as the tune segues into, "As The Saints Come Marching In."
Little Toby Walker has been a student of the blues genre for many years, making numerous field trips down South to study and research the music's origins. During that time, he studied with bluesmasters like Eugene Powell, Jack Owens, Sam Carr and R.L. Burnside. It was time well spent and most evident throughout his music.
Cool Hand is an impressive recording by Walker, performing music from a genre that's not only very close to his heart, but also considers him a permanent member. Those who are big fans of acoustic blues will want a copy of this one. Others who are looking to discover the style will want to start right here. This is a light-hearted, easy listen, an excellent second effort that's well worth your time.