Continuing to prove the vitality of both the blues and his own artistry, Joe Louis Walker, with a sure-handed assist from producer Duke Robillard, makes his 20th album one of his finest yet. Out of the gate Walker scorches the fretboard with the searing, howling solos he fashions on the driving “I’m Tide” (evidence of the Walker wit in action—the title is his phonetic spelling of “tired,” as in “I’m getting sick and tide/sick and tide of you!”), a rouser further enhanced by Walker’s frisky vocal and the energetic organ pulses courtesy of Bruce Katz. From that straight-ahead, hard driving blues he stomps into the furious, horn- enriched 50s-style R&B of “Eyes Like a Cat,” and by then it’s pretty clear Walker is not going to rest in any single stylistic mode this time out. So it is that our man assays some deliciously yearning Muscle Shoals-influenced southern soul (“Black Widow Spider”), grinding, midtempo blues spiritually centered on Chicago’s South Side (“Prisoner of Misery”), and rich, atmospheric blues ballads (“Hallways”), among the scintillating, mostly original, impressively literate fare. Robillard cuts it all hot and loud, with impeccable instrument separation but a warm, ensemble feel nonetheless, as Walker’s expressive instruments—voice and guitar—command the center stage with authority. In a word: awesome.