Joe Louis Walker has been guitar slinging for more than 30 years and could easily rest on his six string laurels but instead remains one of the most prolific song writing, blues guitarists around. You can’t listen to just one of Walkers albums and understand him the way you can so many traveling blues guitarists. Walker continues to grow lyrically and artistically while still highlighting the lightning in his fingers.
Many blues people get a reputation for impressive guitar playing but never really grow beyond that. Their albums all sound the same and you go to their shows to see the solos. Walker never fell into that trap and Hornet’s Nest is his best album yet, one listen and you know he is as in love with that guitar as the day he picked it up, he is still experimenting and pushing himself.
Walker records for my favorite blues label, Alligator, and on this album, he worked with talented producer, musician, and songwriter Tom Hambridge, who spend time in the studio with other Alligator stalwarts, Buddy Guy and James Cotton. Walker doesn’t settle into one style on this album, he strokes the strings tenderly on ‘Love Enough’ and heats them up with the blinding speed of the solo on the album’s title track.
The second song on the album, ‘All I Wanted to Do’ continues the power chord drive of ‘Hornet’s Nest’ but does it with a stylistic change towards a slightly more pop feel. Walkers vocals keep it planted firmly in the blues and anchor the music through the entire album. ‘As The Sun Goes Down’ drags you deep into the swamps where his voice mingles with the guitar to create a vision so realistic you can smell the Spanish moss.
I feel the funk bopping in during ‘Soul City’ and the call to god in the gospel groove of ‘Keep the Faith’. This album shines from end to end and it seems to me that Walker has enough lightning in his pocket to propel decades more worth of albums.
Hornet’s Nest is well recorded and the backing band remains tight. I reviewed the CD release and was disheartened to find a lack of vinyl, at least for now. The CD sounds great and never feels overly digital or fatiguing. The music just sweeps you up and carries you to the end.
I highly recommend Hornet’s Nest and if you get the chance to see Walker live, don’t pass it up.