When the other kids growing up were idolizing Jimi Hendrix — well, Joe Louis Walker did, too, but he was destined for a life in the blues. The San Francisco native actually backed Hendrix and many others as a guitarist at the Matrix, a club in the Fillmore district, joining the house band at all of age 16. Walker then turned to the Lord for a while, but released the first in a long string of albums in 1986 with Cold Is the Night and has since gone on to win four W.C. Handy Awards from The Blues Foundation. Walker's dynamic live performances incorporate plenty of jazz, R&B and soul into his brand of blues, and he adds a liberal dose of his gospel roots on new album Hellfire (Alligator), which already looks like the blues album to beat in 2012. See an interview with Walker, in which he talks about how Houston legend Lightnin' Hopkins once kicked him off stage back at the Matrix, this week on our Rocks Off music blog.
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