Absolutely glorious: ‘Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues’

Tahoe Onstage
Joe Louis Walker eyes the Bluesdays’ audience in The Village at Squaw Valley on July 31, 2018.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

British harmonica ace Giles Robson first hit it off with singer/guitarist Joe Louis Walker at a blues festival in 2016. Supremely soulful in an animated, cracked-gospel voice, and wielding a wicked guitar, Walker has been on a continuous rise in stature since his 1960s salad days in San Francisco.

When it struck Robson — who usually leads a rockin’ hot band — to record a back-to-basics album, he turned to his new friend Walker, because Walker’s so damn real, and has been for so damn long. Walker suggested Bruce Katz to complete the acoustic guitar, harp and piano format they had in mind for what turned out to be this timeless, absolutely glorious blues album.

Alligator Records
Joe Louis Walker, left, Bruce Katz and Giles Robson.
Alligator Records

Katz may be best-known for his memberships in Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters and The Gregg Allman Band, but his resume comprises many more artists and styles. Here he applies his creativity and heart to nothing but extraordinarily beautiful blues piano. For a full minute, alone inside of Roosevelt Sykes’ “Feel Like Blowing My Horn,” Katz plays rolls that are like diamonds cascading from a velvet pouch.

Meanwhile, Walker veritably explodes with energy. In St. Louis Red’s “Hell Ain’t But A Mile And A Quarter,” Katz bounces elegantly, while Walker somberly contemplates an undesirable fate, albeit with a slight wink. Walker feels the blues out loud during every second he sings and plays on this album. It could be his finest hour ever set to tape. In Blind Willie McTell’s “Murderer’s Home,” he wails and practically pulls his fingernails off plucking his strings.

Robson and Katz are right there conversing with him, trying to quiet his mind, it seems. For his part, Robson consistently pumps coal into this nonstop fire. He also paints with his harp as distinct a picture of the sap in Big Maceo’s “Poor Kelly Blues” as Walker does in his urgent voice. That they all click like brothers is apparent right away, as they set off rollicking on Papa Lightfoot’s “Mean Old Train.” Their understanding of blues structure, cut with just the right amount of light abandon, causes the song to sparkle brightly.

That kind of chemistry enlivens everything present, from start to finish. But repertoire makes an impact as well. Equally honest and exciting renditions of songs by Washboard Sam, Son Bonds, St. Louis Red Mike Bailey, Sunnyland Slim, and others, complete the set. Each is as far from the run-of-the-mill as these players and their performances are. Captured clearly, and with plenty of punch, these songs truly are “Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues.”

— Tom Clarke

  • ‘Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues’
    Walker Katz Robson
    Release: Oct. 26, 2018
    Label: Alligator Records

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

LEAVE A REPLY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

@FOLLOW ME

Raisin' Cain, Bay Area bluesman makes new mark https://bit.ly/3wH3pYW @alligator1971 @CassieJFox @KSCUblues #ChrisCain #NewMusicFriday

US50 over #EchoSummit is now open for travel in both directions. @CaltransDist3 blew up the rocks and got them moved out of the way, making travel to #SouthLakeTahoe much easier. Here is a still of their efforts.

COVID-19 case update for 4-9-21:

-- 18 cases (9,580)
-- (506) additional negative test results
-- 12 assumed recoveries (9,215)
-- 3 hospitalizations/3 ICU
-- no additional deaths (108)

SEARCH TAHOE ONSTAGE

EVENTS CALENDAR

« April 2021 » loading...
S M T W T F S
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
1
Sat 17

California Honeydrops

April 17 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Sun 18

California Honeydrops

April 18 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Fri 23

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

April 23 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Sat 24

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

April 24 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Fri 30

The Mother Hips

April 30 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
© 2021 All Content and Images by Tahoe Onstage