Joe Louis Walker may be too young to have run with the legendary itinerant bluesmen like Robert Johnson or Honeyboy Edwards, but he's paid his dues and earned his proper blues degree nonetheless. Born to migrant workers on Christmas day in 1949, Walker grew up in the West Coast blues renaissance of the 1960s. He left home at sixteen and moved in with guitarist Mike Bloomfield in San Francisco's fabled Haight-Ashbury scene, where he joined the scores of guitarists emulating the blues-rock fusion of titans like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
By the '70s, Walker had veered away from the blues and turned to religion—a detour that led him to a gig with a gospel group called the Spiritual Corinthians. But when the Corinthians played the 1985 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Walker reconnected with his roots and assembled a blues outfit called the Boss Talkers. The group wrote some fine original material that landed on Walker's first album, Cold Is the Night, released in 1986.
More than thirty years after his musical awakening amid the blues-rock heyday, Walker is still in the game and still making innovative and engaging music on stage and in the studio. He joins the Telarc label with the release of In the Morning, a wake-up call to jaded fans, critics and musicians who think they've heard and seen and done it all. In the span of ten tracks, Walker fuses electric and acoustic blues, R&B, soul, gospel and funk into a whole that's broad enough to appeal to blues traditionalists and progressives alike.
In the Morning opens with the uptempo and Santana-flavored "You're Just About To Lose Your Clown," then segues into the gospel-influenced title track, complete with rich backing vocals (for an even more overt gospel message, check out the spiritual "Where Jesus Leads" a few tracks later, crafted in the tradition of Sam Cooke's early recordings with the Soul Stirrers). Other highlights include the smoky "Leave That Girl Alone," a desperate ballad punctuated by some well crafted lead guitar work, and the punchy, light-hearted instrumental "2120 South Michigan Avenue." And like all good bluesmen, Walker ends on a poignant note with the acoustic closer, "Strangers in Our House." He pushes it all forward with guitar chops that are smoldering one minute and fiery the next, and a powerful vocal attack that captures the full emotional spectrum of the blues, from the painful to the playful to the joyous.
Walker understands instinctively the significance of eclecticism, growth and rebirth as part of the musical experience. His awakening process is never over. He knows that, even in the darkest hours of the blues, at the end of the longest and hardest road, there'll be something worth listening to In the Morning.