Joe Louis Walker is best known as a high-energy purveyor of rock-influenced, deeply soulful blues, but his background includes intimate musical contact with some of the music’s most respected traditionalists: As a young man growing up in San Francisco he frequented bohemian hangouts like the Matrix, where he witnessed performances by the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Although he’d already become enamored of the electric blues and rock sounds being laid down at the nearby Fillmore West, he gleaned from these elder statesmen the value of storytelling, in music as well as lyrics. Walker learned his lessons well: his sound is raw enough to please beer-and-boogie barflies, yet sufficiently sophisticated to appeal to listeners who appreciate more subtle pleasures. He intersperses sweet-toned meditations with harsher blues fire, always emphasizing meaning over flash in his solos. Recently he’s been exploring his roots more deeply–his sparkling fretwork on James Cotton’s new all-acoustic CD is further evidence that a Young Turk need not eschew sensitivity and grace to make his point. Thursday, August 29, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Joe Louis Walker playing guitar.