Phillip Walker & Otis Grand
Big Blues from Texas
JSP 2122

Philip Walker was born in Louisiana, worked with zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier, has spent an extended period of time in Southern California and recorded this CD in London with Otis Grand producing. Though he did his time in Port Arthur, the title Big Blues from Texas may be misleading, and his sound here does not bring to mind the Texas blues vibe.

While he’s now part of the West Coast scene, Walker’s Southern roots seem to have shaped his taste to the extent that he’s comfortable with the soul blues of Memphis as well as the Chicago approach to the classic Delta blues. In fact, the opening track, a brisk shuffle called “Dressin’ Trashy,” is as much Chicago as anything else.

For a healthy dose of Walker’s trademark jump blues, check “Don’t Leave Me Baby” and “Insomnia.” “Bluesmobile” is an amalgam of jump attitude and Memphis rhythm, and the slow burner “She’s Gone” is a standard lament showcasing Walker’s articulate guitar as he blends the sound of T-Bone Walker with the forceful South Side style. And, yes, Walker does visit that ominous Texas blues groove — on the title track, last song on the album.

Walker’s appeal grows from his subtlety. He never — and I mean never — overplays a lead line or overstates an embellishment. His vocals are deep and seem effortless, and his guitar playing is a lesson in restraint and taste. His body of work — this album included — stands out as a triumph of substance over style.

Philip Van Vleck

©1999 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA