Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Joe Louis Walker

  • Cold Is the Night [HighTone, 1986] B+
  • The Gift [HighTone, 1988] A-
  • Blue Soul [HighTone, 1989] B
  • Preacher and the President [Verve, 1998] Neither

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cold Is the Night [HighTone, 1986]
Producer-penned songs begin and fancy up each side, which is half the Hightone story--this would be one more piece of moderately sharp spit-and-shuffle blues without that spit-and-polish. The other half is label honchos Bruce Bromberg and Dennis Walker's insistence on artists determined to rise above--like Robert Cray, Ted Hawkins, and JLW, who must have started out emulating both Junior Wells and Buddy Guy and taken it from there. B+

The Gift [HighTone, 1988]
No house-band barrocker, no funkified keep-up-with-the-times hopeful, never show up on a Tina Turner album. Like they say, he just plays the blues. Yet between sharp tempos and wordly-wise material, he overcomes the boredom factor built into that time-worn endeavor. Even when he lays back his beat has a forward tilt, and he's not proud about where he gets his songs--from producers or band members or fellow guildsmen. The sole throwaway is more than offset by the title tune, a bluesman's "Change Is Gonna Come"--25 years later, for better and worse. It's not really a blues at all. The bluesman in question wrote it with no help from anybody except his father and his grandmother and the Lord above. A-

Blue Soul [HighTone, 1989]
I know, life is never this simple. But last time bass player Henry Oden had four songwriting credits, three of them winners. This time he's got none. Standout: the unsoullike, unaccompanied "I'll Get to Heaven on My Own." B

Preacher and the President [Verve, 1998] Neither