With a work ethic that puts even Joe Bonamassa to shame, Joe Louis Walker returns in 2015 with Everybody Wants A Piece. The guitarist has been an unstoppable force since returning to the blues in the mid-80s, following a 10-year dalliance with gospel.
Everybody Wants A Piece is his 23rd album since 1986, and his 12th in the last 13 years. You could say he’s in the midst of quite the purple patch. He also has a serious ear for a tune, as Everybody Wants A Piece once again proves. It’s a record that has Walker’s trademark electric blues-meets-gospel soul sound stamped right the way through it, like a particularly tooth-destroying stick of Blackpool rock.
His gospel background is there for all to see, but there’s also jazz and even a touch of pop. The latter is never more evident than on Black And Blue. The lyrics tell a story of textbook blues heartbreak (‘I’m black and blue, over you, through and through, I’m black and blue’) but the chorus could have been lifted straight out of an 80s chart-topping hit. Luckily a sterling solo pulls us out of pop and into driving rock territory. Speaking of solos, Walker’s lead work throughout the album is among his best ever. There are solos at every turn and some of his syncopated lead and vocal work, such as on One Sunny Day, is a joy.
Likewise, the superb keys work of bandmate Phillip Young – the cascading keyboard of Buzz On You is used as a springboard for some of Walker’s strongest vocals of the record and he jumps in and out with soaring melodies. Walker’s supreme level of funk darts in and out too. Wade In The Water is carried by a thick groove and Witchcraft has the kind of hip-swinging riff that sounds like pure voodoo to us Brits.
The rebadged Hard To Handle that is Man Of Many Words is another foot-tapper with a hypnotic groove. Okay, so there’s blues, pop, soul, funk, jazz, rock and masterful lyrics – anything else? Oh yes, there’s also Walker’s undeniable chops. Gospel Blues, a near six-minute instrumental, is a stunner, powered by feel and wonderfully emotive solo after solo as the guitarist lets rip over a sombre cross-stick backbeat.
The release of Everybody Wants A Piece may find Joe Louis Walker on the cusp of celebrating his 66th birthday, but it sure proves that there are still plenty of tunes left in this old bluesman.