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The Best Of The Stony Plain Years

Joe Louis Walker

Stony Plain 2014

Review by David Bowling

Joe Louis Walker is just shy of the retirement age of 65 but shows no sign of slowing down. He has spent a lifetime playing the blues and early in his career toured with such luminaries as Thelonious Monk, Steve Miller, Buddy Miles, Willie Dixon, and Otis Rush. He was a roommate of Mike Bloomfield until his untimely death. A disciple of John Lee Hooker, he has released over 20 albums during the course of his career. The quality of these albums has varied but the three he released for the Stony Plain label, Between A Rock And A Hard Place, Witness To The Blues, and Blues Conspiracy: Live On The Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise were some of the best of his career.

The Best Of The Stony Plain Years gathers the better tracks from his three albums for the label. The only negative is each of his albums for Stony Plain was a cohesive whole and removing them from that environment creates a disconnect. The positive is this compilation album contains some of the best music of his career.

“I’m Tide,” “Send You Back” with Sugar Ray Norcia, and “Black Widow Spider” were culled from his Blues Foundation 2010 Blues Album Of The Year, Between A Rock And The Blues. The first is a fierce rocker while the other two are excellent examples of modern day electric blues.

The tracks from Blues Conspiracy were all recorded live. The cruise had a number of blues artists and they tended to play on each other’s songs. ”Slow Down GTO” with Mike Finnigan, “Ain’t That Cold” with Johnny Winter, and “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” with Chris Salgado & Mike Finnigan find Walker in an energetic live mode as he trades licks with some of the best in the business. The live tracks tend to be longer as they contain a lot of improvisation.

“Sugar Mama,” “Highview,” and Hustlin’” were taken from Witness To The Blues. They unite rock and blues into a fusion sound.

Joe Louis Walker has moved on from the Stony Plain label but has left behind some of the best music of his career. The Best Of The Stony Plain Years mines some of those nuggets.

 

Rating: ***1/2

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