If the function of art is occasionally to soothe and inspire a weary soul, then this is a good week to move your grief-battered bum out of the house, away from the relentless horrors on the television screen, and get on with the business of life. Ground zero on your mission is to go see JOE LOUIS WALKER at the Coach House on Thursday, Oct. 4. Among the uninitiated, the blues is understood as nothing more than a musical whine. In fact, the blues is soul-soothing magick that bespeaks steely resolve, the triumph of the will over mere facts, and the celebration of playing well with a real crappy hand.
Walker's raw-nerved, unabashed emotionalism; his refusal to be confined by his genre; and his unqualified versatility make him one of music's contemporary heroes. His work today is as groundbreaking as B.B. King's was in the '50s. For years before he started recording solo, Walker sang sanctified gospel with a group called the Spiritual Corinthians. He has played slick, modern soul-blues with his band the Bosstalkers, stretching the limits of blues chord progression with his adventurous compositions and flashy guitar licks. He's fused the blues with jazz, recording with contemporary greats like Branford Marsalis and Ernie Watts. He released a symposium on his instrument called Great Guitars, on which he matched skills with a host of axe slingers that included Steve Cropper, Buddy Guy, Scotty Moore, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Rush and Ike Turner.
Walker's latest CD, Silvertone Blues, is his best and most surprising album yet. Along with guests Alvin "Youngblood" Hart, James Cotton and Kenny Wayne (the hip black pianist, not the cheesedick white guitarist), Walker explores the roots of the music, squishing his toes around in the rich Southern mud of the traditions that helped make him what he is today. Recorded live and unrehearsed in the studio, the album offers a heapin' helpin' of acoustic country blues; feets-don't-fail-me-now jump; and primal, Muddy Waters-like Delta wails. Walker's always gospel-steeped, down-home vocals (his falsetto screams can shred your tympanic membrane) and stunning guitar playing are in prime form throughout. Would it be overtly corny to say the album is a sweet summation of everything great about the American musical/cultural experience? Sure as shit it would, but I just went ahead and said it anyway, now didn't I?
Walker came of age in San Francisco in the 1960s, when that city offered perhaps the most eclectic selection of music in this country's history. The variety of sounds he absorbed as a young man continues to inform Walker's work to this day.
"I look at myself as a product of the '60s," Walker says. "I grew up four blocks from the Fillmore. My mama still lives in the same house. I seen it when the Fillmore was totally black-owned. I saw Little Richard there when he got religion. I saw the Temptations doing 'My Girl,' and I seen James Brown. When Bill Graham took over, I saw Howlin' Wolf and the Grateful Dead and Ornette Coleman. I heard it all at once, and I'm a product of what I grew up with. I used to answer ads in the paper for guitar players, and I played with every kind of band imaginable by the time I was 16 or 17 years old."
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Walker is now a man, M-A-N, way past 21, and you better believe he has lots of fun. Don't miss this show; it'll be a much better time than taking in the current body count or listening to Bill Bennett call for Arab-American internment camps.
However, if you are feeling a bit crimson about the neck region these days, allow me to recommend a therapeutic visit with CHARLIE DANIELS Wednesday night at the Sun Theatre. A curious case, ol' Charlie: his 1970 hit, "Uneasy Rider," was a first-person spoken blues piece about a hippie narrowly escaping a beating at the hands of a gang of Ku Klux Klan types. He switched gears soon enough, turned his narrative on its head, and seemed to become evil personified: five years after that hit, he hinted at good-ol'-boy fascist leanings of his own with tunes such as "The South's Gonna Do It Again" and "Long Haired Country Boy." By the time of his 1980 hit, "In America," Daniels was engaged in full-tilt "camel jockey"-baiting and evermore has retained his cherished position as spokesman for bonehead conservatism. Mitigating factor: Charlie wields a mean-ass fiddle, and his bands always lay down a scorching blend of western swing, country rock and hardcore honky-tonk, and no one can take that away from him, even if they pry it from his stiff, cold fingers. While the Shack might be a more appropriate venue than the Sun for this particular concert, I'm sure all our wonderful friends in the Aryan community will have themselves a grand old time soaking up ol' Charlie's hot jams and fiery rhetoric.
A band that poses more danger to our militant enemies than Daniels and Walker combined appears on Thursday, Oct. 4 at the House of Blues. MOTÖRHEAD's sheer punk/metal volume, power and stugots are potent enough to drive any bomb-totin' creep from an Afghanistan cave, shrieking in panic. Plus, Motörhead brain trust Lemmy Kilmister is such an unrepentantly filthy human being that I'm certain his soiled socks, drawers and T-shirts have first-strike capabilities more destructive than any smart bombs the U.S. could manufacture. Drop a couple of bins of those babies over the Mideast, and watch the white flags fly—now that's terrorism!
Joe Louis Walker & the Bosstalkers perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Thurs., Oct. 4, 8 p.m. $13.50. 18+; The Charlie Daniels Band play at the Sun Theatre, 2200 E. Katella, Anaheim, (714) 712-2700. Wed., 8:30 p.m. $37.50-$47.50. All ages; Motörhead play at House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-BLUE. Thurs., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. $20. All ages.