Phillip Walker, Going Back Home

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The most undervalued bluesman in the country goes back to his roots.

Phillip Walker, who may be the most undervalued bluesman in the country, came up in the oft-overlooked '50s Gulf Coast scene, but has been in Southern California since the '60s. This set of songs associated with the Texas-Louisiana artists he grew up on, plus a few Randy Chortkoff originals in the same vein, is meant as a return to his roots, but he goes home with a decidedly modern slant. Just look at the contemporary punch ‘n'funk of “Lying Woman,” which sets a tone Percy Mayfield surely never intended. But it's a fine performance anyhow, with Walker's dry, urgent voice spitting out the word “successful” with caustic haughtiness and his guitar emitting some fantastically nimble and biting chicken-pickin'. His version of Frankie Lee Sims'”Walking with Frankie” boogies real low and menacing, while Ray Charles'”Blackjack” gets an anguished reading and Chortkoff's “Lay You Down” features a blazing guitar duel between Walker and Rusty Zinn. Walker's guitar work is equally hard-hitting throughout; he can play with a brightly burnished tone on one song and a metallic grind on the next.