Joe Louis Walker came to Las Vegas, strapped on his guitar, plugged in and blasted the desert city with a set chock-full of high-energy electric blues – and someone had the good sense to record it all. The result is Viva Las Vegas Live, a DVD and CD of the event.
The live atmosphere comes over strongly in both audio and video formats: Walker’s connection with the audience, the cheers and whoops of the crowd, the clink of empty bottles at the bar and a general, indefinable buzz from the crowd and the musicians all strongly suggest a great night out.
Walker is blessed with a powerful and expressive voice, used to great effect on the slow, emotive Black & Blue. His solo on this track is economical rather than flashy, making use of sustain, staccato picking and string bends to build a dynamic few minutes of lead guitar.
Most of the album is more upbeat, faster, harder driving. Too Drunk To Drive Drunk is, apart from a contender for Song Title of the Year, a full-on slice of dancefloor-filling blues with Bruce Bears’s majestic piano solo at its centre and Walker throwing in a quick quote from Day Tripper just for the fun of it.
Soldier For Jesus mixes gospel and urban blues into a call to fight the devil, Walker’s guitar sound at its rawest, Bears’s legato organ sound full and warm. As ever, Lenny Bradford and Dorian Randolph lock things down with their consistently sympathetic rhythm playing.
Sometimes an album creates regret in the listener. Viva Las Vegas Live is one of those albums: I regret I wasn’t there on the night to experience this terrific band in all its glory.
I’m Not Messin’ Around; Young Girls Blues; Sugar Mama; Do You Love Me?; In The Morning; Soldier For Jesus; You Don’t Love Me Girl; Black & Blue; Too Drunk To Drive Drunk; Like It This Way (79.00)
Walker (v, elg); Bruce Bears (p, org, v); Lenny Bradford (elb, v); Dorian Randolph (d, v). Las Vegas, 2 August 2018.
MVD Visual / Cleopatra Blues CLO 1308