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John Earl Walker - Live In Germany

Walkright Records

63:07 minutes

John Earl and his New York based blues band recorded this live at The Burghausen Jazz Festival in March 2009. First the good news. The guitar players are well versed in hard driving blues licks at times tempered with some Chuck Berry shadings. The acoustic piano player Tommy Keys adds delightful boogie woogie-blues stylings throughout. Some of the best moments are when his piano is out front for a solo. Drummer Frank Diorio adds sturdy backing. The bass playing is adequate.

The lead off instrumental "Tess's Shuffle" gets things going nicely. This music is rockin' blues opposed to blues rock. The piano sound gives their sound authenticity. The other instrumental "Nightwalker" is a driving track were Berry's influence is seen briefly.

Now for the bad news. There is no singing per se on the record. John Earl talks the words on all other songs. I'll be kind and say talk-singing, but it's more like reciting. As a well written hip blues rap with a 'punch line' or moral this could of worked in the middle of one song. Not to sound mean, but over the duration of an entire cd it's downright annoying. And the words are of the pedestrian type. It's obvious these guys have the best of intentions and the right tools for the job. But what they need is a carpenter to assemble the parts. Somebody to compose songs that have more imaginative lyrics than these. Too many blues clichés are used. Maybe a few obscure Blues cover might flesh out their sound. I'm sure John could commit himself singing a few songs. Or enlist another singer.

John and Slinky's guitar playing is thought out and energy driven. With the quality services of Tommy Keys I would feature him on a New Orleans tinged tune or a piano instrumental. The backing capabilities are here. Some fine tuning could work wonders.

The interplay within the band is enjoyable until the talking kicks in. I can see them evolving into an exciting band. The love of the genre shows. All the ingredients are there. The right recipe has to be found. I hope they prove me wrong and come up with a flawless approach. I feel guilty coming from a guy who has issues playing a CD player, but players of their skill can surely get it together.

Reviewer Greg 'Bluesdog' Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta. He is proprietor of Bluesdog's Doghouse website.

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