San Francisco's Joe Louis Walker is a bluesman's bluesman, appreciated more for his talent and dexterity than his star appeal. Walker's most recent studio release was 2009's Between a Rock and the Blues, and the title's an on-the-nose clue-in to what's in store. Blues aplenty, but with a rockin' emphasis on electric blues, walking blues, and serious boogie-woogie. The 61-year-old Walker tends to prefer playing on either a Gibson Les Paul or a Yamaha semi-hollow guitar, lending his tunes a twang that's evocative and jaunty. That can be both a blessing and a curse for Walker, as that style's become widespread enough to teeter between comfortable and predictable. He's recorded with Duke Robillard and other former Roomful of Blues players, and past live albums have been released under the name Joe Louis Walker & Blues Conspiracy, a conglomeration of all-stars like Tommy Castro and Tab Benoit. Regardless, Walker's one to tear it up, whether backed with a group or on stage alone. Blues fans tend to veer toward the catholic when it comes to performances, favoring technical virtuosity — chops, man! — and creativity only within pre-approved boundaries. Walker plays with genre but never breaks too many rules, and he's the kind of guitarist, especially when rolling out his searing, impassioned solos, that always brings applause.
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