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HomeNewsArchivesJOE LOUIS WALKER: BLUES TO GOSPEL AND BACK

JOE LOUIS WALKER: BLUES TO GOSPEL AND BACK

Joe Louis Walker, who will be appearing at the Off Shore Bar Friday and Saturday, has been around the block a few times, but the last decade has been good to the Bay Area bluesman. In 1996, he and his band the Bosstalkers won the W.C. Handy Award for best blues band of the year; just a few years earlier, he took home the Handy award for contemporary male artist of the year.
And he's not afraid to trade licks with the best of them: His 1997 "Great Guitars" CD paired him with some of the biggest names in the blues guitar biz, from Taj Mahal to Buddy Guy, Otis Rush to Bonnie Raitt, and he came out smelling like a rose. Downbeat magazine called the effort "the most striking all-star bash in recent memory."
"The San Francisco blues kingpin sings as if his life were on the line," Downbeat said, "and plays sinewy, lean, commanding guitar."
Walker got an early start, hanging out in Haight-Ashbury while still in his teens with the likes of influential guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Soon he was opening for such big-name blues starts as Freddy King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. Walker befriended Lowell Fulson, one of the architects of the California blues sound, and the legendary slide guitarist Fred McDowell, a major influence on Walker's style.
But life in the fast lane of the '60's and '70s took its toll. Walker crashed. And like many another bluesman before him, he turned to gospel, singing for 10 years with the gospel group Spiritual Corinthians and getting his life back on track.
Older and wiser, Walker returned to the blues in 1985 and formed the Bosstalkers. Since then he's been touring and playing with renewed drive, mixing up traditional blues (even the occasional acoustic number) with funk, R&B and rock-tinged blues, anchored with a soulful streak that even hearkens to his gospel background.
He recorded five critically acclaimed albums for the Hightone label, which also spawned bluesman Robert Cray, before signing with Verve. Blues writer Ray Stiles said, "Some saw Walker as the next Cray, but Walker's visceral style is far grittier than the sweet soul of his former labelmate."
Walker turned 51 on Christmas Day, 2000. As Stiles puts it: "Through his years of constant touring he has honed his considerable blues guitar skills to a fine point that strikes right at the heart of his listeners, and Walker's slide guitar playing is a sight to behold. Joe Louis Walker is simply one of the most versatile, exciting and innovative blues guitarists performing today."
Walker will be taking the stage at the Off Shore Bar around 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, part of The Speak Easy Concert Series. Tickets are $20 in advance at the Off Shore, $25 at the door.
For more information, call 779-6400.

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Joe Louis Walker, who will be appearing at the Off Shore Bar Friday and Saturday, has been around the block a few times, but the last decade has been good to the Bay Area bluesman. In 1996, he and his band the Bosstalkers won the W.C. Handy Award for best blues band of the year; just a few years earlier, he took home the Handy award for contemporary male artist of the year.
And he's not afraid to trade licks with the best of them: His 1997 "Great Guitars" CD paired him with some of the biggest names in the blues guitar biz, from Taj Mahal to Buddy Guy, Otis Rush to Bonnie Raitt, and he came out smelling like a rose. Downbeat magazine called the effort "the most striking all-star bash in recent memory."
"The San Francisco blues kingpin sings as if his life were on the line," Downbeat said, "and plays sinewy, lean, commanding guitar."
Walker got an early start, hanging out in Haight-Ashbury while still in his teens with the likes of influential guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Soon he was opening for such big-name blues starts as Freddy King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. Walker befriended Lowell Fulson, one of the architects of the California blues sound, and the legendary slide guitarist Fred McDowell, a major influence on Walker's style.
But life in the fast lane of the '60's and '70s took its toll. Walker crashed. And like many another bluesman before him, he turned to gospel, singing for 10 years with the gospel group Spiritual Corinthians and getting his life back on track.
Older and wiser, Walker returned to the blues in 1985 and formed the Bosstalkers. Since then he's been touring and playing with renewed drive, mixing up traditional blues (even the occasional acoustic number) with funk, R&B and rock-tinged blues, anchored with a soulful streak that even hearkens to his gospel background.
He recorded five critically acclaimed albums for the Hightone label, which also spawned bluesman Robert Cray, before signing with Verve. Blues writer Ray Stiles said, "Some saw Walker as the next Cray, but Walker's visceral style is far grittier than the sweet soul of his former labelmate."
Walker turned 51 on Christmas Day, 2000. As Stiles puts it: "Through his years of constant touring he has honed his considerable blues guitar skills to a fine point that strikes right at the heart of his listeners, and Walker's slide guitar playing is a sight to behold. Joe Louis Walker is simply one of the most versatile, exciting and innovative blues guitarists performing today."
Walker will be taking the stage at the Off Shore Bar around 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, part of The Speak Easy Concert Series. Tickets are $20 in advance at the Off Shore, $25 at the door.
For more information, call 779-6400.