We at the BluesPowR Blog have never had the good fortune of being aboard the floating stage they call a blues cruise, but would imagine it’s difficult to get much closer to the musical part of the experience than Joe Louis Walker‘s Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (Stony Plain Records), out today. A brilliant collection of Walker’s live collaborations with such artists as Johnny Winter, Curtis Salgado, Duke Robillard, Tommy Castro, Nick Moss, and Kenny Neal, the album was recorded during the cruise’s January 2010 excursion and marks the culmination of a series of collaborative projects that began with Walker’s Live at Slims Vol. 1 & 2 and Great Guitars. Walker (pictured here during an appearance at this past summer’s Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival) explains in the liner notes that the music on the CD is exactly “what the audience heard at the performances. There are no enhancements or overdubs. In other words, what you hear is what it was and what it is.” In which case, we’d have to say that there were some damn lucky ears on that cruise…
This star-studded Blues Conspiracy kicks off with the swinging “Slow Down GTO,” featuring the Phantom Blues Band’s Mike Finnigan on keyboards. A fiery “Ain’t That Cold” has Walker trading licks with guitar great Johnny Winter, after which Finnigan returns and is joined on vocals by Walker and Curtis Salgado for the slow, classic R&B sounds of the eight-minute “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” one of the album’s best performances. Walker next welcomes Tommy Castro and the horn section of his band, along with Deanna Bogart, for a swinging horn-filled “Eyes Like a Cat,” while the Mannish Boys’ Kirk Fletcher helps deliver some straight-ahead blues in “Ten More Shows to Play.”
After a romp with Jason Ricci (harmonica) and Nick Moss (guitar) on “Born in Chicago,” Walker is joined by Watermelon Slim in presenting the largely instrumental, just shy of 12-minute “Sugar Mama,” featuring some terrific harp and organ. The powerful “Tell Me Why” with Duke Robillard and a pairing with Kenny Neal on the rocking, harp-filled “A Poor Man’s Plea” are among the most sparkling of the gems on this treasure, while the funky “It’s a Shame” from Walker’s own band (which includes Henry Oden on bass and Linwood Taylor on guitar) helps to bring the album to its closing number, which has Walker shuffling off on a “747” with Paul Nelson, Tab Benoit, and Mitch Woods.
Just as the recording captures him doing so well at sea, we expect that Joe Louis Walker will again be making some nice waves in the blues world with his Conspiracy.