Blues Hall of Famer and winner of multiple blues awards, Joe Louis Walker treats us to a new offering in Weight of the World. Sometimes serene, often rambunctious, the album highlights Walker’s mastery and versatility as a singer, guitarist and composer.

In the title track that leads off the CD, Walker poses the question, “Will we ever learn?” referring to the state of the world. His soul-steeped vocals are instantly recognizable; his guitar solo luminous. 

Then, reminiscent of a Stax classic, “Is It a Matter of Time?” features Walker’s stirring singing atop hefty horns in this exhilarating number. Beginning with a delicate, elegant touch, “Hello, It’s the Blues” swells into a ravishing jewel, magnified by rousing piano and strings. Walker’s voice is sublime as he sings of an imaginary dialogue with the blues, embellished by ethereal acoustic guitar.

A drum intro grabs the listener with an intricate take on a Bo Diddley beat in “Waking Up the Dead” as Walker swoops in with some wicked slide. The mood is darker here, reflected by the tougher edge of his vocals. “Don’t Walk Out That Door,” written by Walker and Gabriel Jagger (son of Mick), is a poignant depiction of the end of a loving relationship. 

Walker’s voice is drenched in soul, amid a backdrop saturated with horns and organ. Then in a funky, percussive number, “Count Your Chickens,” he sings of impending doom, supported by potent organ, topped off with smoking guitar.

With a nod to Chuck Berry, Walker amps up the voltage in the rowdy rocker “Blue Mirror.” His guitar is masterful here — raucous and exuberant — bolstered by a bedrock of rollicking piano. Walker maintains the intensity with “Root Down,” pierced through with his reedy harmonica. “Bed of Roses” describes the downfall of a lover, accented by radiant guitar. 

The album concludes as Walker’s exquisite vocals glide above a swinging, jazzy groove in “You Got Me Whipped.” His suave, sophisticated guitar solo only enhances the cool hipness of the song.

In Weight of the World, Walker’s talent for melding diverse styles into his own expression is one of his many strengths. He may be in his seventies, but Joe Louis Walker is every bit a contemporary artist, expanding and challenging the scope of the blues.

– Sandra B. Tooze