Thursday, December 27, 2012

Root Walking reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

Root Walking
Big Walker
BKW Records
12 tracks/46:04

Derrick Big Walker’s “Root Walking” is a unique collection of 12 American blues and roots music. Featured on this re-cording are African-American poems from the 17-1800’s put to music plus original tunes from Walker. Most of these songs tell the story of the black peoples struggle due to slavery and being brought to a strange land by force. These are poems telling of the situation that they had to endure. Walker has also added some of his own lyrics to them to show his feelings on this matter. Every track on this CD can be listened to reflect and try to understand where the blues came from and the people that they tell about.

Big Walker is truly a harmonica player who has honed his licks to create real a blues sound with deep feelings for the genre. From the lessons that he took from the great Paul Butterfield, he has created and nurtured his own style. He is also a solid saxophone player as you will hear on several tracks on “Root Walking”. Along with all this talent he also adds all the lead vocals. The band for this project includes James Bradley and Fredrick Hellberg sharing the drum beats, Surjo Benigh adds guitars and bass as Stevie Klasson joins the mix with slide and acoustic guitar. Also included are several fine piano and organ players as well as great back-ground singers. This makes up a very strong group of blues artist for this CD.

“Can’t Take No Train” is a true saga of trying to ride the train without any paper money. Walker inserts strong and thought provoking lyrics into this story. “Can’t take no train, the conductor told the strong man I had to go, they hit me till I was black and blue, their dog bit me.” This story is a poignant look into what we hope is in the past. Featured on this track are some of Walker’s outstanding harmonica playing, Slim Natini’s piano plus some awesome slide guitar from Stevie Kallson. This up-beat tune with powerful lyrics is a standout tune on “Root Walking”. Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s “Midnight Special” is an excellent addition to this CD also. Walker throws in a very strong harp solo on this tune.

“Thirteenth Full Moon” is a tribute to guitarist and friend of Walker, Ollie Boson, who passed away in 2009. Derrick’s lyrics and saxophone playing here create a strong example for his true love and feelings for the blues. Slim Notini’s piano is present throughout the song as well as the guitars of Klasson and Maxie Dread. This is another strong track on this re-cording.

“Root Walking” is what Americana blues and roots music is about. Big Walker has done a strong job of presenting and preserving the poems of the 17-1800’s while creating a fine example of musical blues. The struggle of the blacks in the past and now are not overlooked here. Every tune here is different and thought provoking while being very enjoyable to listen to. Derrick Big Walker is a for real talented blues artist that we should get to know and listen to.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe Poluyanskis

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