Robert "Bilbo" Walker
Promised Land
Rooster Blues 2632
Walker is unusual on at least two counts: His nickname -- which he hates -- derives from one of Mississippi's most notorious governors and senators, the rabid segregationist Theodore Bilbo, and his major musical influence is Chuck Berry. (Another nickname was Chuck Berry Jr.) There are other anomalies as well. After years of gigging and scuffling in Clarksdale and, later, Chicago, he ultimately wound up in Bakersfield, California, where he says he prefers farming to making music. Other artists who left their mark on him include Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Little Walter.

Walker, however, is no imitator, and Promised Land is an engaging effort by this 60-year-old who puts his very personal stamp on songs by Sam Cooke, B.B. King, Magic Sam, Waters, and, of course, Berry, whose entertaining saga of a "poor boy" on the move to California provides the title track. With the bare-bones, roadhouse-rough accompaniment of bassist David "Pecan" Porter and drummer Sam Carr (with fellow Jelly Roll King Frank Frost playing organ on three tracks), Walker's enthusiasm for his music quickly wins you over.

-- Miles Jordan

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