Joe Louis Walker

Heritage of the Blues: Ridin' High Live

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First and foremost, punters should be aware: Heritage of the Blues: Ridin' High Live is not a new live album by California bluesman Joe Louis Walker. This is a single-disc compilation from the two Live at Slim's dates in November of 1990 that were previously issued on Hightone. These sides have been remastered, and three unreleased tracks have been thrown in to the mix: "Alligator," "Prove Your Love," and "Personal Baby." That said, this is a very tight, completely rollicking set that showcases Walker at a turning point in his career when he was just becoming known on a national scale. His playing is fiery, raw, and stinging. His singing is full of emotion and good-natured blues grace, and his band kicks ass. The three new tracks do beg the question as to why they were left off the initial two albums, and revisiting "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" with Texas blues and R&B goddess Angela Strehli still sends chills down the spine. Walker's read of Earl Hooker's "Blue Guitar" is still one of the high points of his recording career and does the master's version proud. In sum, this is an interesting repackage that allows fans of J.L. Walker the opportunity to hear the Live at Slim's gigs in a very different -- and much more sonically pleasing -- light.

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