FREE Subscription - For more information  CLICK HERE



Back To Reviews page

Joe Louis Walker - Hellfire

Alligator Records

11 tracks/54:01

Back in the late 80's, I had the pleasure of seeing several live Joe Louis Walker shows that featured his back-up band, the Boss Talkers. Together they served up a potent mixture of blues, soul and gospel with so much energy that you couldn't resist getting up and dancing. Over the years, Walker has released a steady stream of recordings, most of them good and some being almost as memorable as the Live at Slim's records that captured Walker with the Boss Talkers.

His first Alligator release comes close to capturing the fire and energy of Walker's early years. He is teamed up Tom Hambridge, the award-winning producer famous for his work with Buddy Guy. In a conversation at last year's Blues Blast Music Awards show, Hambridge told me that the most important aspect of the producer's role is to make sure the artist has a strong batch of songs. With so many great instrumentalists out there, Hambridge believes that memorable tunes are the difference that can elevate an artist's work from the crowd.

The truth is that when you sing with as much passion and urgency as Walker does on Hellfire, just about any song will have the ability to make an emotional connection with listeners. The title cut finds Walker sermonizing about his struggles to escape Satan's lure, his frenzied guitar creating an aural version of the Devil's playground. “Soldier for Jesus” takes Walker back to his days as a member of the Spiritual Corinthians, only this time he gets backing from the renown Jordanaires on a spirited gospel tune that also features some biting slide guitar from the leader. They also lend a hand “Don't Cry”, a Walker original that expertly mixes righteous lyrics with a funky, contemporary r&b sound.

The pace slows on “I Won't Do That”, with Walker at his finest with a gripping vocal and fierce guitar work. Walker and Hambridge co-wrote “Ride All Night”, a rocker that sounds like it was plucked from the Rolling Stones songbook, circa the Exile on Main Street era, with Wendy Moten adding a rousing backing vocal. Walker's upper register harp work and fervent singing spark the cheating song “I'm On to You”. Walker turns the brooding Hambridge tune, “What's It Worth” into another highlight, his voice and guitar battling each other to tell the searing tale of a lost love.

Reese Wynans handles all of the keyboards on the disc. Hambridge is on drums and Tommy MacDonald on bass completes the rhythm section while Rob McNelley adds his guitar to the mix. Matt White on trumpet, Roy Agee on trombone and Max Abrams on sax appear on two cuts. “Too Drunk to Drive Drunk” is a ferocious rocker with some great piano playing from Wynans and “I Know Why” is a love ballad with the horns gently riffing behind Walker's moving vocal.

The disc closes with a lively cover of Hank Snow's “Movin' On” with guitar solos from Walker and guest John D'Amato sandwiched around more Wynans' fine piano work. It is a fitting end to one of the strongest releases in Walker's career. His soul-stirring singing, coupled with his electrifying guitar playing, make this a must-be-heard release.

Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.

To submit a review or interview please contact:

For more information please contact:


Home  |  Contact  |  Submit Your Blues News - Advertise with Blues Blast Magazine
 Copyright - Blues Blast Magazine
2010    Design by: Moxi Dawg Design