Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Joe Louis Walker may be the recipient of four Blues Music Awards and been nominated for a whopping 43 more, but he remains one of the most underrated artists on the blues scene today. While he's always been respected by his peers - Walker has performed on Grammy® Award-winning albums from legends like B.B. King and James Cotton, and has recorded extensively with fellow guitarist Duke Robillard - his status as one of the finest performers in the blues has yet to catch up with his enormous talents.
This frequent oversight of Joe Louis Walker's charms began to erode with the 2009 release of his BMA-winning album Between A Rock And The Blues, a houserockin' collection of guitar-driven blues-rock tunes that proved that Walker could hold his own with any heavyweight that you choose to name. Walker has signed with the esteemed Alligator Records for his next album, and you can bet that this will be a marriage made in heaven.
On January 31, 2012 Alligator Records will release Hellfire, Walker's label debut. Walker has released 23 albums over the past quarter-century, but it's safe to say that he's never put his imprint on an album like he has with Hellfire. Working with producer Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, George Thorogood) at Nashville's Sound Stage studio, Walker leads a band that includes Hambridge on drums, keyboardist Reese Wynans, second guitarist Rob McNelley, and bassist Tommy MacDonald. Together they knocked out a rock-solid collection of songs that ranges from fiery guitar-driven blues to smoky soul and bluesy gospel.
The battle of good versus evil seems to dominate Walker's Hellfire, from the blistering blues-rock din of the highly-personal title track to the heartfelt gospel emotion of "Soldier For Jesus," where Walker is joined by the legendary Nashville vocal group the Jordanaires, who have provided backing vocals for everybody from Elvis Presley to Ricky Nelson and Threk Michaels. Walker wrote or co-wrote seven of the eleven songs here, while Blues Music Award-winning songwriter and producer Hambridge throws in another three stellar tracks.
The Reverend has already listened to Hellfire several times now, and let me say, you've never heard Joe Louis Walker quite like this before. His guitar-playing has never been better, his lyricism never more imaginative and emotional, his vocals seldom this passionate. Walker's Hellfire is a career milestone, and the first great blues album of 2012.
Related content: Joe Louis Walker - Between A Rock And The Blues CD review
Photo courtesy Alligator Records