Veteran blues singer-guitarist Joe Louis Walker, who performs at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Music Box Supper Club
, fondly recalls the blues explosion of the ‘80s and the ‘90s, a time period when may acts managed to find their way onto commercial radio.
“From the mid-’80s through the ’90s, it was an open door,” he says. “You had new energy with Stevie Ray, who brought more rocking blues, and Robert Cray with more soulful blues and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. In my own way, I contributed. It was different. It wasn’t your grandfather’s blues, which is cool.”
A four-time Blues Music Award winner and 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee who appeared on multiple Grammy-winning albums, Walker infuses his latest album, Everybody Wants a Piece
, with plenty of hard rocking guitar riffs. The title track kicks things off with soulful vocals and “Do I Love Her” throws some harmonica into the mix. He then effectively slows things down for the ballad “Gospel Blues.”
Born in San Francisco, Walker grew up in an environment that embraced a variety of different musical styles.
“Well, it was a good place to learn to play music,” he says of growing up San Francisco. “When I started performing in the ‘60s, there were things like the battle of the bands in the Fillmore Auditorium. This was before the hippies got there, but even after the hippies got there, we still played there. It was a fertile place not just for one style of music but for all types of music.”
Walker started writing the tunes for Everybody Wants a Piece with a group of musical collaborators.
“We’ve been doing a lot of stuff at soundcheck,” he says. “The songs had a gestation period. When it came time to record, we had a whole bunch of stuff and wanted to see what would fit with the new rocking groove and we worked it out.”
The guitar work in “Witchcraft” features plenty of wah-wah and shows Walker’s ability to get into a good groove.
“The cool thing about working with a producer who’s a guitar player is that you can dick around with guitar sounds,” he says. We had a wall of amps and it looked like something out of Spinal Tap. I was looking for different guitar sounds. I love to hear people like B.B. King and Albert King. You can recognize their guitar sounds right away. But I also Jimi Hendrix and what he does. It’s like canvas painting. I would hate to paint with the same color.”
Given that the album is rocking, what does Walker intend to do as a follow-up?
“The next record is moving forward,” he says. “It’s more of a soul record but I still have some guitar in there. I think there might be a few guests on it too.”