Without a doubt one of the most exciting and innovative artists gracing contemporary blues, guitarist Joe Louis Walker has glowed like a shining blue beacon since the release of his 1986 debut album for HighTone, Cold Is the Night. The disc announced his arrival in stunning fashion, and his subsequent output has only served to further establish Walker as one of the leading younger bluesmen on the scene. Joe Louis Walker is the total package, as tremendously assured on a down-in-the-alley acoustic solo outing as he is performing a thoroughly modern R&B-laced number with his latest crew of Boss Talkers.
Walker traveled a circuitous route to the top of the blues game. He was born on December 25, 1949 in San Francisco. At age 14, he took up the guitar, playing blues (with an occasional foray into psychedelic rock) on the mushrooming San Francisco circuit. For a while, Walker roomed with Mike Bloomfield, who introduced him to Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead and taught him some very useful licks. Walker even made a brief pilgrimage to Chicago to check out the blues scene there.
But by 1975, he was burned out on blues and turned to God, singing for the next decade with a gospel group, the Spiritual Corinthians. When the Corinthians played the 1985 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Walker was inspired to embrace his blues roots again. He assembled a band, the Boss Talkers, and wrote some stunning originals that ended up on Cold Is the Night (co-produced by Bruce Bromberg and Dennis Walker).
More acclaimed albums for HighTone -- 1988's The Gift, Blue Soul the next year, and two riveting sets cut live at Slim's in 1990 -- preceded a switch to the major Verve imprint and three more discs that were considerably more polished than their grittier HighTone counterparts.The LP The Preacher and the President appeared in 1998, followed a year later by his Blue Thumb label debut, Silvertone Blues. At the dawn of the new millennium, Walker changed record labels, joining Telarc Blues, and releasing In the Morning in 2002. He didn't stay at Telarc long, moving to Blues Bureau International for 2004's New Direction, then to JSP Records for 2006's Playin' Dirty, before settling in at Stony Plain Records for 2008's Witness to the Blues, 2009's Between a Rock and the Blues, and 2010's Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Walker seemed to find a more stable home at the venerable blues label Alligator Records; he made his label debut with 2012's Hellfire, and in 2014 returned with the fiery Hornet's Nest. But 2015 found Walker recording for Provogue Music, which released Everybody Wants a Piece in the fall of that year. ~ Bill Dahl & Al Campbell