In essence, bringing blues legend Joe Louis Walker and his trio into the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs was a historical event. But adding Murali Coryell as the second lead guitarist in the band made it monumental.
The fledgling Capital Region Blues Network helped get the word out, and the Parting Glass was comfortably packed with fans. There on the floor by the drummer was a two-page “set list” – really just a pick-n’-choose guide of more than 50 songs culled from the 21 albums that Walker has released over the course of the past 25 years.
From the first note, the 61-year-old Walker’s vocals and guitar pyrotechnics went into over-drive, as he hit the ball out of the park with relentlessly soulful blues runs and emotional depth.
The first surprise of the evening for those who didn’t know Murali Coryell’s work was that he could hold his own for two sets with Walker, going toe-to-toe as the dynamic duo of fretmasters exchanged powerhouse leads. At the same time, however, Coryell was very much a team player, as opposed to competing with the master for the spotlight.
The second surprise of the night was howling harp man Chris O’Leary – the former frontman of Levon Helm’s blues band, the Barnburners – who was invited by Coryell to take the stage and blow his heart out with the band for several tunes.
Roaring applause and several ovations dotted Walker’s performance throughout the evening. No surprise there. The multiple Grammy and W.C. Handy award-winner is slowly ascending to elder-statesman status behind B.B. King and Buddy Guy.
For those who missed the concert, well, you’re gonna have to settle for listening to Louis Walker live on his newest Stony Plain CD, “Blues Conspiracy: Live On The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.” But of course, that ain’t bad, either…
Review and color photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Black and white photographs by Rudy Lu
Michael Eck’s review at The Times Union
NOTE: Joe Louis Walker and his band (along with Murali Coryell) will be playing just down the Hudson at the Towne Crier in Pawling at 8:30pm on Saturday (June 11). But don’t expect Chris O’Leary to drop by. The blues harpman and vocalist will be leading his own band – aptly named the Chris O’Leary Band – at Gaffney’s in Saratoga Springs on Saturday (June 11).