Joe Louis Walker felt optimistic going into his latest album, "Hellfire."
The veteran guitarist, singer and songwriter was off to a fresh start with a new label, Chicago's Alligators Records. And he hooked up with a new producer, Grammy Award-winner Tom Hambridge, who'd most recently worked with fellow blues icon Buddy Guy. The combination proved fortuitous.
"With me having made 20 records already, Tom had a pretty good idea of what I could do," says the San Francisco-born Walker, 62, who holds degrees in music and English from San Francisco State University and was a onetime roommate with the late Michael Bloomfield. He also lived in Detroit briefly during 1970, when he was part of Muddy Waters' band.
"Tom knew a little more about me than I did about him," Walker continues. "So I went to his place in Nashville and we wrote 13 songs in two days. I figure when I've got that kind of connection with somebody, then we can work together. And we both work pretty quick. We're both trying to get to the essence of a song; it doesn't has to be perfect, but it has to be a special performance and something I haven't done before."
On "Hellfire," however, Walker feels that along with forging new territory it's also "going back to my roots," especially in gospel -- with help on two songs by Elvis Presley's backing vocal troupe the Jordanaires -- and psychedelic rock and soul.
"That's the way I like to move forward," Walker explains. "I grew up with all kinds of music meeting together at the Fillmore (in San Francisco) in the 60s. Those were my formative years, what I came out of and grew up on.
"Tom got that. He really brought a lot out of Buddy, which I really like, and that's what he did with me. He set a perfect table for me to sit at, and the stuff I brought to him was easy 'cause it was so diverse. It made for a good match."
Joe Louis Walker performs Friday, March 16, at Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $20. Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.
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