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Joe Louis Walker, StageOne, Fairfield, CT – 2/25

Hearing songs like “Hellfire” and “Soldier For Jesus,” it becomes apparent that Joe Louis Walker is a man troubled about eternal salvation. Though opening number “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” shows he has plenty of soul to spare. With a well-earned reputation as a ferocious live performer, he let the frigid weather be damned. In a style that brings to mind Johnny Copeland and Freddie King, Walker rocks it hard on songs like “Too Drunk To Drive Drunk” and “Slow Down GTO.” Wearing a snakeskin shirt and a white cap covering long braids, he’s clearly not chasing the nostalgia circuit.

Walker seems more than comfortable with rock and blues, soul and gospel; songs like “Black Girls” have a smidgen of each. The cascading leads he pulls from his Les Paul on “What’s It Worth” are typical of the direction of Walker’s new album Hellfire; taking the blues template and yanking it into the modern world. He was also quite content to let guitarist Murali Coryell (son of Larry) and singer Bertha Blades take the lead for a song or two, particularly impressive was her belting out “Sugar Coated Love.”

The finale was a heartfelt take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Like It This Way”, and a brief reminiscence of playing with Danny Kirwan and Peter Green back in the blast furnace of 1960s San Francisco.

The man is clearly hell-bent and all the better for it.

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