“Hard Pill To Swallow” from Journeys To The Heart Of The Blues by Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz & Giles Robson. Released: 2018. Track 11 of 12.
Grammy-winnng singer/guitarist Joe Louis Walker, keyboard wizard Bruce Katz and UK harp ace Giles Robson join forces for a spellbinding journey through a treasure trove of rare and classic blues brought to vibrant new life.
“Walker blends melodic deftness and deep feeling with sheer passion and defiant authenticity.” – Living Blues
“Katz’s piano playing is nothing short of breathtaking” – Living Blues
“Robson is a phenomenal talent…a harp master at the top of his game” – Blues Revue
Joe Louis Walker: Guitars and Vocals
Bruce Katz: Piano
Giles Robson: Harmonica
Produced by Joe Louis Walker, Bruce Katz and Giles Robson
Associate Producer: Scott Petito
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Scott Petito at NRS Recording Studio, Catskill, NY, January 2018
Photos by Mickey Deneher
Packaging Design by Kevin Niemiec
Booking: Blue Mountain Artists, [email protected]
Management: Bluesifyin’ Productions, [email protected]
Joe Louis Walker endorses Dunlop guitar strings and other products, Zemaitis Guitars, Rozeo Guitars, Babicz Guitars, Quilter Amplifiers, Red Plate Amplifiers and Hohner Harmonicas.
Bruce Katz endorses Hammond Organs.
Giles Robson endorses and plays Hohner Special 20 Harmonicas exclusively.
Joe Louis Walker would like to thank: The Walker Generation Family—my wife Robin Poritzky-Walker, my daughters Berniece Walker and Lena Walker, and most of all, my grandsons Germaine and Corey. Joe also thanks Pat Morgan, Blue Mountain Artists, Alligator Records, V2/Munich Records, the composers, The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation and blues fans everywhere.
Bruce Katz would like to thank: Victoria Read, Liz, Zach and Amelia Hollcraft, Legare Robertson and Founding Music and Steve Nixon and freejazzlessons.com.
Giles Robson would like to thank: his daughter Alderney and son Marlowe for bringing him such joy and love, his parents Pat and Peter and brother Raife for years of unwavering support, help and love, Chris Boog at V2/Munich Records for green lighting the project and his subsequent support and his staff for their hard work on the project’s behalf, and Bruce Iglauer and his staff at Alligator Records for taking it on stateside. Also thanks to the artists who composed the songs on the record and blues harp greats Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Walter Horton for their life-enhancing creativity and artistry.
In January 2018 I excitedly touched down in a freezing New York City, having flown in from London. I was in the United States to record an album of purely acoustic blues with two incredible American musicians—legendary singer and guitarist Joe Louis Walker and virtuoso piano genius Bruce Katz.
Blues music has thrived and survived for well over a hundred and twenty years, and currently boasts countless festivals around the world. But these days, much of what is considered blues is something quite distant from the music’s roots—a loud and proud classic rock-infused sound originally forged by iconic artists like the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore and Eric Clapton and carried on these days by guitar heroes like Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
This album was intended to head in completely the opposite direction. It was to be a celebration of the dynamics, grooves, lyrics and, above all, the feeling of unadulterated traditional blues. Blues played intimately and at a low volume and with the wonderful space that is created when drums and bass are taken out of the equation.
But why did I want to make this album? After my years of leading The Dirty Aces, a British blues-rock band, I had returned to basic traditional-style electric blues in 2016. The resulting album, For Those Who Need The Blues, and the unexpected, incredible audience response that followed, reminded me of the awesome power and emotional impact of pure blues.
It was at the Amstelveen Blues Festival in the Netherlands in December of 2016 that I met the great Joe Louis Walker, whose set was after mine. Joe invited me to sit in on a couple numbers and then we talked music for hours after the show, and about perhaps working together in the future. I was amazed by Joe’s razor sharp musical memory and his extensive blues knowledge, all coupled with the incredible power he wielded on stage. He is a guitar virtuoso with tremendous feeling and an incomparable singer. I came away from my meeting with Joe with my head buzzing with a germ of an idea for a recording project.
A blues musician spends a lot of time in planes, trains and automobiles, and in cheap hotels. This gives him a lot of listening time. I found I was being drawn to acoustic albums by bluesmen who usually recorded with bands, like Sonny Boy Williamson, Junior Wells and Muddy Waters. Freed from having to be loud and heard above a band, these artists displayed an incredible amount of soulful, goosebump-inducing subtlety and sensitivity. These stripped-down performances also put a stronger emphasis on the lyrics—the plain-speaking, truth-telling, experienced, tough, ironic and humorous lyrics that are among the blues’ greatest achievements.
The more I listened to these albums the more I yearned to create something similar. I realized that Joe Louis Walker was the perfect musician I needed to do this record justice. I reached out to Joe and after a few phone calls and emails he was committed to the project.
Joe had the great idea to fill out the sound by including his friend, pianist Bruce Katz. Bruce is well known to blues fans as a long term member of Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters and also for his work with Gregg Allman, Delbert McClinton, John Hammond and Big Mama Thornton, as well as for his own solo career. Like Joe, Bruce is one of the most incredible musicians I’ve ever encountered. He manages to combine near-perfect execution with down home funk and feeling. He can range from classical to jazz to blues at a drop of a hat, and is a master of all. It was Bruce who suggested Scott Petito’s wonderful NRS Studio in Woodstock, NY. Scott is a recording wizard with an impressive client list including the likes of Mercury Rev, John Scofield, John Medeski, Rory Block and Levon Helm.
Over three days of rehearsal and five days of recording, mixing and mastering, the three of us became very much an organic unit. We picked songs, both obscure and classic, by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Blind Willie McTell, Big Maceo, Roosevelt Sykes and Son Bonds—but we played and recorded them very much our own way.
As I’ve gotten older, my love for blues music has only gotten stronger. My life experiences have caught up with the meanings of the lyrics and the healing feeling of this timeless music. The album title reflects the fact that we felt that each song we chose took us on journeys, both lyrically and musically, to the heart of blues music. We invite you to take those journeys with us.
Giles Robson has been described by Blues Revue Magazine as “A phenomenal talent…a harp maestro at the top of his game.”
Mighty and masterful Blues from a most excellent group of players.