Cleopatra Blues 2019
What happens in Vegas, shouldn’t always stay there, and a blistering concert of blues veteran surely deserves a wider recognition.
To what extent is an artist allowed to have fun is his chosen genre is all about anguish? Without relying on his academic degree, Joe Louis Walker will tell you it’s a rhetorical question. The Frisco native may not be a household name, yet Joe’s being a guitarist of choice for the likes of James Cotton and Peter Green lends Walker more credentials than various TV appearances – which doesn’t mean the visual component of his shows shouldn’t feel important. Here’s the proof: this CD-and-DVD combo capturing the veteran in action must stress his uniqueness as a performer.
“I’m not messing around,” states Joe on the concert’s infectious opener, but that’s exactly what he does, laying down a minimal boogie shuffle on his guitar and peeling off sweet licks to tickle the fretboard and make it squeal from pleasure on such passionate pieces as “Sugar Mama” where tone is king, so Walker almost reluctantly, after the whopping six minutes of letting his strings do the singing, passes the tune from his fingers to his vocal chords before whipping out a harmonica to elicit a little response from the weirdly unimpressed audience. They will wake up only when the artist comes down from the stage and shakes a few hands; in the end, the listeners won’t allow the ensemble leave sans encore, an inspired reading of FLEETWOOD MAC’s “Like It This Way” – with a quote from BLACK SABBATH’s “Iron Man” to spice up Lenny Bradford’s bass showcase.
The band members are attuned to the leader’s mood on every level, and serve up additional nuances to the proceedings, piano player Bruce Bears’ New Orleans-styled solos becoming an aural spectacle in their own right, but it’s the slim and suave Walker who runs it all, jumping and duckwalking on the frantic “Too Drunk To Drive Drunk” and defying his 69 years of age. Joe commands the fantastic interplay of “You Don’t Love Me Girl” whose samba-shaped rhythm he spices with bell-like notes, and directs the supercharged riff of “Do You Love Me?” whose chunky, funky rumble would get thicker along the way, while tender, yet intense, “Black & Blue” will see the artist strut before demonstrating his technique with a gypsy-tinged melody inserted into the track.
Musically impeccable, if never sterile, the concert is arresting, and smiles reign here, although pain is never far away. “The blues kept us alive,” remarks Walker in the bonus interview: indeed, it’s not about despondency – it’s about optimism, and this album has it in spades.