Joe Louis Walker,
In the Morning
(Telarc, 2002)

It isn't too often when a new recording conveys that feeling of satisfaction, becoming a treasured work of pure listening pleasure. When it does, you really can't help but want to share it with everyone you know. One such recording is the latest release, In the Morning, by veteran blues artist Joe Louis Walker. His debut with the Telarc label is just the beginning of a long and prosperous partnership, considering he hit this one right out of the park. In the Morning is a first-rate recording from start to finish and can easily be described as refreshing and enjoyable, a genuine "feel good" album.

In the Morning covers many styles of blues, from delta and soul to gospel and R&B, reflecting the music that defines the artist himself. With a career spanning several decades, Walker continues to remains loyal to his love of gospel and his passion for blues. This talented musician is a gifted guitar virtuoso who has a very natural style, an instinctive ease, when performing. Walker maintains an equal balance on each track, his solo work enhancing the sound without expanding far beyond the songs original intent. Every track highlights Walker's dynamic, highly energetic style as a performer. The artist's soulful spirit certainly delivers a sound both smooth as silk and sizzling hot.

The album's 10 tracks are a tailored fit, enhancing both Walker's expressive vocals and blazing fretwork. You'll immediately notice the clear, well-defined sound, with plenty of room for his emotional spirit to shine, starting with the opening track, "You're Just About To Lose Your Clown." This funky tune has a tasty Latin flavor that grabs your attention, leaving you wanting more. Next comes "In The Morning," a light, soulful tune, the first of two definitive gospel tracks highlighting the wonderful background vocals of Andrea Re. "Joe's Jump" switches gears with its upbeat, foot-stompin' shuffle and snappy guitar solos. You can hear Walker really having one heck of a good time with this one.

The mood changes on "Leave That Girl Alone," a jazz-influenced soul tune with some impressive guitar leads. Walker's voice howls and woos in the background to nice effect. The second gospel tune is "Where Jesus Leads," with Walker delivering a strong vocal performance in an Al Green preachin' style. One of the stronger tracks here, and a personal favorite, is "Strange Loving," a powerful number, with it's gritty, swamp-rock style of R&B. Walker's vocals are full-bodied as he groans and growls, shout and moans with a sound reminiscent of Wilson Picket. This is certainly one of those tunes with all the necessary ingredients for a top-10 single. Another change in tempo follows with "Do You Wanna Be With Me," a hip, soulful tune with a slight disco feel. Walker dances across the fretboard with incredible ease and an infectious R&B sound. He saves his very best for last, closing the album with "Strangers in Our House," an all-acoustic Mississippi delta blues tune showcasing Walker's highly skilled talents vocally and on bottleneck. He delivers a vocal performance loaded with raw, gut-wrenching emotion. Walker has a keen sense of drawing you directly into the story and, once he's got you, there's no letting go. You can't help but feel the intensity of emotion right along with him.

In the Morning highlights Walker's impressive career. It's like a having a front-row seat to experience one of most dynamic soul and blues artists in the music industry today. Walker worked on this recording with some of the very best musicians in the business: G.E. Smith on guitar, Andrea Re on backing vocals and percussion, T-Bone Wolk on bass, Steve Holley on drums and David Maxwell on keyboards.

Walker has paid his dues and racked up plenty of mileage through the years, performing all across the country. He has a devoted following, yet this talented contemporary blues artist is still somewhat overlooked, not receiving the kind of recognition he deserves. Walker is one of only a few artists with the versatility and experience to incorporate the sounds of gospel and blues together with such perfection. With his latest release, I expect he will soon be a very busy man on both coasts and everywhere in between. Walker's high-powered performance certainly indicates he has no intention of slowing down. This is a great CD, I find myself playing it again and again. It's made my top 10 list for the year, and I imagine it will take home a few awards. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy, you won't be disappointed.

- Rambles
written by Pamela L. Dow
published 28 December 2002

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