Friday, January 14, 2011

Joe Louis Walker & the Bosstalkers “In Concert” (MVD)

When Joe Louis Walker exploded onto the blues scene in the late 1980’s, he was hailed as a breath of fresh air. He enlivened a somewhat stagnating scene with his energetic, emotional, original approach to combining hard-core electric blues with elements of soul and gospel. This 1991 live-performance DVD, from the German concert t.v. series “Ohne Filter”, captures him and his equally energetic band, the Bosstalkers, at their early peak.

Walker and the band are notable for their clean, stripped-down sound, built around the leader’s, precise, clipped-note lead which has some of the cool approach of Albert Collins melodically (though the parallel should not be taken too exactly), but which can burst out in showers of notes which can catch you pleasantly off-guard. This tight, compact early edition of the Bosstalkers provide solid support throughout, without ever overpowering Walker. The bass player in particular has a nice, popping funk rhythmic sense, whereas the keyboardist and drummer are refreshingly content to be role-players, filling in with taste and subtlety. A concise two-man horn section (tenor sax, trumpet) provides first-rate enhancement, occasionally putting down their horns to pick up small percussion instruments. One can only wish that all sidemen in small bands of this nature were equally content to help showcase their leader and not themselves.

Walker’s repertoire is quite varied, and reflects his early interest in the earthier aspects of 60’s r&b, his early-career experience in the playing field, his interest in a wide range of electric blues from Chicago through Memphis to Texas, even his friendship with former roommate Michael Bloomfield. It’s all here, not in a scatter-shot way, but melded into a coherent, individualistic approach. The 57-minute performance holds a great deal of interest from beginning to end.

In the twenty years since this concert was originally televised, Joe Louis Walker has continued to record consistently excellent CD’s and perform at top festivals and clubs. Even so, he has never quite crossed into mainstream consciousness the way a B. B. King or Buddy Guy has. And that’s a shame, because the man has an awful lot to offer. This disc captures him at full power, and should be seen by anyone interested in modern-day blues.

No comments: