On Stage: Joe Louis Walker shows no sign of slowing down

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Joe Louis Walker

Joe Louis Walker may be closing in on his next decade – he will be 70 on Christmas Day – but he’s no way ready to slow down. The word retirement is not in his dictionary.

On June 1, Walker will visit Chester County to be the headliner at the 10th Annual Chester County Blues BBQ (Wyndsor Farm, 2550 Ridge Road, Elverson, www.chestercountyblues.com).

“I’ve been staying real busy,” said Walker. “We’ve been going out on some small tours and we’ve been doing some recording.

“Right now, we have a new record and DVD. It’s called “Viva Las Vegas’ on Cleopatra Records. We’re also working on a studio album.”

Walker, who grew up in San Francisco, began studying guitar when he was 14. By the time he was 16, he was performing publicly and starting to build a reputation as a top-flight blues artist. Louis turns 70 this December so that means he’s been plying his craft for more than 50 years.

His parents were both from the South and they brought their love of blues with them when they headed west. Joe’s dad played blues piano, and his mom played B.B. King records. Walker was coming into his own as a guitarist at the same time San Francisco’s music scene was developing into a melting pot of blues, jazz and psychedelic rock.

As a 16-year-old, Walker was the house guitarist at San Francisco’s famed musical playground, The Matrix, where he played with or opened shows for everyone from Lightnin’ Hopkins to Jimi Hendrix to Thelonious Monk. He was also a regular at The Fillmore West.

“My first exposure to the blues was from my parents,” said Walker, during a phone interview Tuesday. “They brought the music with them from down South when they moved from Mississippi to San Francisco.

“I first started playing guitar when I was really young. I started performing at clubs in the Bay Area in the early 1960s and joined the musicians’ union in 1966. I went to school a half-block from the Fillmore. And, I played the Fillmore long before Bill Graham got there.”

In the late 1960s, San Francisco became a haven for hippies and, for a while, was the music capital of the world.

“I played with a lot of those guys – Jerry Miller from Moby Grape, Jorma Kaukonen from Jefferson Airplane, Bobby Weir from the Grateful Dead, John Cippollina from Quicksilver Messenger Service,” said Walker. “I was roommate with Mike Bloomfield for a while. Everybody knew each other back in those days.”

Fifty years later, many of the musicians from the “Summer of Love” era are either dead or retired but Walker is still going strong. 

Over the last half-century, Walker not only has found great success playing his music in America, he has become an international ambassador of the blues and has played in venues all over Europe, South America and Asia.

Walker definitely understands — and represents — the real essence of the music genre known as the blues.

“Blues is like the comfort of an old friend,” said Walker. “It’s a rite of passage. If you find yourself in a room with a lot of guitar players of all styles, when they want to play something together, it will be a blues song first and then a Chuck Berry rock-and-roll song second.

Walker is one of the greatest bluesmen of his generation. He is a four-time Blues Music Award winner and 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee who has appeared on multiple Grammy-winning albums. He is known worldwide as one of the genre’s top musical trailblazers—a mesmerizing guitarist and soul-testifying vocalist.  

Walker won the 2016 Blues Foundation Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year award at the Blues Foundation Awards ceremony in Memphis.  The Blues Music Awards are universally recognized as the highest accolade afforded blues music performers. His most recent album, “Everybody Wants A Piece,” was Grammy nominated Contemporary Blues Album of the Year in 2017.

“I play blues music in a lot of different styles – including acoustic blues,” said Walker. “When I go on tour, I want to give people what they want.

 “When I’m deciding what songs to play in a show, I see what people think. I ask my fans what they want to hear. Some of the choices are also based on what the band members like.”

“I’m always writing songs. But I haven’t written much lately because I just got through touring relentlessly for the last year. I don’t have a lot of problems writing but I tend to just write if there’s a project going on.”

Video link for Joe Louis Walker – https://youtu.be/fOJ8MmxONEc

The Chester County Blues BBQ will run from 2-7 p.m. and will also feature Bill Kirchen, Roger Girke and Voodoo DeVille. Tickets are $15.

Nalani & Sarina have played so many shows in Delaware in recent years that many people might think they are musicians from the First State. They’ve played shows at the Queen, the Hotel DuPont, Wilmington Flower Market, several clubs in Newark and Wilmington, outdoor parks, Wilmington University and a few shows in Lower Delaware. They’ve also been headliners at several editions of the annual Ladybug Festival in Wilmington each summer.

Nalani & Sarina

Truth is the musically versatile twins are residents of the Hunterdon area in central New Jersey.

On May 31, Nalani & Sarina will return to Delaware to perform at the Delaware Art Museum’s Backyard Bash as co-headliners with Nadjah Nicole. The event also features Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble and Missy Bélgre.

The Museum’s annual outdoor party features live music, food, art, and fun. In partnership with People’s Festival organizers, this event features local musicians, food trucks, family-friendly art activities, face painting, arts vendors, lawn games, and bar service.

Nalani & Sarina have been building a huge fan base in the Mid-Atlantic region for the last five years. The duo has performed at a variety of venues around the area — including Kennett Flash, the Eagleview Concert Series in Exton, and MilkBoy Philadelphia. The highly talented sisters, who are in their early 20s, have already established themselves as top-flight vocalists, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists.

They have self-released several well-crafted albums and singles. Now, they are ready to take it to another level – with their latest album called “The Circle.”

“The album was released a year ago in May,” said Nalani Bolton, during a recent phone interview from her home in central New Jersey. “It’s on our own label – Telepathy Records – and is distributed by Kobalt (a label servicing company that handles publishing, licensing and other services).

“It took about two years to complete the album. We’ve been getting great responses. It’s great to actually hear people respond after waiting so long to get the album out.

“We just kept writing songs – songs that kept changing. We record with our engineer Julian Herzfeld and Greg Thomas at Julian’s studio in Wayne and also at Carriage House Studio in Stamford, Connecticut.

Sarina Bolton said, “We’ve been recording a lot. We’ve taken a pretty relaxed approach — doing it piece-by-piece…song-by-song. There were no deadlines and that made it a lot less stressful.

“With the songwriting, we had a new approach this time. The songs on our last album were based on personal experiences. This time, it’s other people’s stories — more of a world-wide approach. It is observational writing geared to people our age.

“It’s a combination of first person and third person. We’re writing about people our age – observing other people’s stories. It’s like a story about kids’ lives from their early to late 20s – love, first relationships, work.

“The songs are about what life is like for people our age. But, people of all ages can relate to these songs. We’ve had older people tell us that they can identify with these songs.”

Nalani said, “The vibe of the album is very mature. We think the sound and the material has matured. Our early stuff was all about relationships. Now, we are more worldly. We look at the world the way it is today – especially for people our age. We always like to challenge ourselves.”

The twins found the bullseye with the first single from the album — “Young and Inexperienced.”

Nalani & Sarina were featured in the New York Post about their new single, “Young & Inexperienced”.  They appeared in the Business section of the paper in an interview with MarketWatch about their single with the headline “‘Loan’ Them Your Ears: Troubadours of Youth Woe$”.

MarketWatch featured Nalani & Sarina in an article entitled “Millennial sisters who never went to college write anthem on the evils of student debt.” The article focused on their latest single, “Young & Inexperienced” — offering insight in writing the song. The Hunterdon Democrat did an article on Nalani & Sarina featuring the pair on the front two pages of the paper. With the write-up entitled, “Sisters Pen Song About Struggles of Today’s Youth.”

More impressively, Billboard featured Nalani & Sarina and their single, “Young & Inexperienced” on its website in a praiseworthy write-up written by Thom Duffy.  He highlights their songwriting and titles the article as “Nalani & Sarina’s ‘Young and Inexperienced’ is an anthem for the student-debt generation.”

“Our new single was featured in Billboard,” said Nalani. “It was really awesome to see the single up there. We’ve also had some stuff on SiriusXM.”

“Young & Inexperienced” got spun on Debatable on SiriusXM’s The Volume and Nalani & Sarina were the featured guests on SiriusXM’s The Spectrum for “Kick Out the Jams,” with legendary rock critic Dave Marsh asking them about their record, their songwriting inspiration, and even aired some of the album’s tunes.

Nalani said, “With the single’s topic, it wasn’t our intention to capitalize on a situation that’s going on. We just wrote it from what we were observing. The world has changed completely with college and jobs. People look at our generation as young and inexperienced. A lot of people in our hometown are recent college grads who are having trouble finding jobs.”

The sisters graduated from high school with honors but never looked to continuing their education on in college.

“We graduated early from Hunterdon Central High a few years ago and we’ve been doing music ever since,” said Nalani.

With roots based in rhythm-and-blues, soul, rock and especially funk, the sisters create vocal harmonies that only twins can make.

“We’re identical twins,” said Nalani. “We both started playing classical piano when were six and then studied operatic vocals when we were in sixth grade.

“Classical music and opera provided good basics for us. Our mom was a folkie, so we listened to a lot of folk music when we were young — great songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. And, we’ve listened to a lot of classic rock.

“We always have the funk. It’s impossible for us to keep the funk out. We’ve always had funk in our blood. We play shows with just the two of us, it always sounds more singer-songwriter. When we do shows with our band, it gets funkier.

“We’ve been finding ways to combine all our styles. With this record, we’ve meshed the styles. The last song we wrote was ‘The Circle’ and ten we knew it was time to stop. The album had a cohesive theme – beginning, middle. We’ve started writing songs for the next album but first we plan on working this album to its full potential.”

Video link for Nalani & Sarina – https://youtu.be/Xvryc5W3JpY.

Video link for Nadjah Nicole – https://youtu.be/GL3ET_yN2Sw.

The Museum’s Backyard Bash will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for youth.

Walk Off The Earth

More female-fronted rock will be on tap on June 1 when Walk Off The Earth comes to Philly.

Most of the time, when bands are in their early stages, they want to keep the focus on original songs – keeping any covers they might play to a bare minimum.

Walk Off the Earth, which is headlining a show at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com), is different.

Walk off the Earth, an indie-pop band from Canada that is known for making catchy video covers of a variety of pop songs, hit success ealy when the video of the band’s cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know” went viral on YouTube back in 2012 and logged over 135 million views in four months.

The Ontario-based band, which features Gianni Luminati (guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, theremin), Sarah Blackwood (guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, piano), Ryan Marshall (guitar, bass, trumpet, piano), and Joel Cassady (drums), has been able to co-exist and a band with its own material and a band that focuses on covering other artists’ songs.

The band’s list of covers — some very well-known and some more eclectic — ranges from Adele’s “Someone Like You” to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”

“In Canada, because there are such huge distances between cities, it’s hard to get music out to the people,” said Marshall. “With our first video, 10,000 people watched it and we’d never played a show to 10,000 people. It was something that allowed us to get a large variety of fans — and to go global

“With the Gotye song, there was a lot that went before it. So, it wasn’t like a talking cat video or a kid with teeth video — a one-and-done thing. When it went viral, people watched it and then discovered our older videos. Had it just been a one video thing, we wouldn’t have gotten the interest.”

Walk Off the Earth just premiered a new cover video, “Stay (I Missed You),” featuring Lisa Loeb herself. It coincides with the 25th Anniversary of the hit single’s original release.

“We’re always working on stuff,” said Cassady, during a phone interview last week from his home in Toronto, Ontario.

“If we’re not putting content out, somebody else is beating us to it.”

Walk Off the Earth’s keyboardist, Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, tragically passed away in late December. The band has made the tough decision to carry on and will be paying tribute to him during their upcoming world tour.

“We just wrapped up recording an original single – a tribute to Mike. We just played it for the first time last night. We made it to commemorate his legacy.

“We haven’t made an album in a couple years. We’ve been doing the singles thing to keep current.

“We are going to take six, eight, 10 of our best demos for a while and think about putting out an album. I’m hoping that within six months, we’ll get into it.”

Walk Off The Earth has found a way to get its music out to its fans without releasing albums or EPs.

“We have our own YouTube channel,” said Marshall, during a phone interview last week. “We started putting stuff on YouTube in 2008 and have a lot of videos on our channel now.”

The debate about playing originals and non-originals never found its way to Walk Off the Earth’s band camp.

“Originals – covers – it’s not something we overthought a lot,” said Cassady.

“If we do a cover, we put a different spin on the song. A lot of times, people like it more than the original.”

Video link for Walk Off The Earth – https://youtu.be/jYPgtlarcgw.

The all-ages show at The Fillmore, which has Gabriela Bee of the Eh Bee Family as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $38.50.

Other upcoming shows at The Fillmore are blackbear on June 3 and machine Gun Kelly on June 4.

There are two ways to enjoy Griffin House – stay there or listen to him.

Griffin House is a bed and breakfast located in the Mohawk Valley of Central New York less than one half mile from the Hamilton College campus.

Griffin House

Griffin House is also a Nashville-based singer/songwriter/guitarist who album released total is already in double figures. “Rising Star,” his 13th album, is set to be released on June 28.

On June 1, Griffin House will be heading a show at The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com).

With 16 years making a name for himself in Nashville, House is taking “Rising Star” on the road. It is a self-reflective record that shows just how well House has developed his talents as a writer and musician. Created with old friends, Paul Moak and Ian Fitchuk, this record also features co-writes with fellow Nashville musician Brian Elmquist of The Lone Bellow, longtime collaborator Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow) and Joy Williams of The Civil Wars along with percussion from Grammy-winning “Album of the Year” producer Ian Fitchuk.

“We cut the album about a year ago,” said House, during a phone interview last week from his home in Nashville. “We spent the summer mixing and mastering and then I shopped it around. It’s taken this long to get it all together.

“It was produced by Paul Moak and Ian Fitchuk played on it. They are both old friends who worked with me on my first record. We made ‘Rising Sun’ in Nashville at Smoakstack, which is Paul’s studio. His studio has a lot of great analog gear. It’s a really cool place. He keeps it dark. It’s state-of-the-art – and really vibey.

“I cut the basic tracks for about a week. Then, I came back and spent another week on the vocals. We did a lot of it live in the studio. My record before this, which was recorded in Asbury Park, was almost all live. When I’m in the studio, I get inspired by energy of the moment.”

House also stars in the full-length documentary film “Rising Star,” set for release this year. Co-produced with music video director and filmmaker Shane Drake, the film chronicles House’s life as a musician and features music from his new album as well as his previous catalog.

“It’s a music documentary,” said House. “It follows me around for a tour – 12 shows. The film opens with me in 2005 on the CBS Sunday Morning Show with Bill Flanigan, who said I was a great prospect.

“It starts with this expectation. It grapples with a lot of questions and has a slow rise. We got a 75-minute film out of 90 hours of footage.”

When House began making albums in the early 2000s, the singer-songwriter from Springfield, Ohio quickly built a solid fan base in the Delaware Valley.

He performed several times at the sadly missed Main Line venue The Point and also had gigs at the World Café Live, the Colonial Theatre and the Theater of the Living Arts. His fan base in the Philly area has continued to grow.

House’s discography has also continued to grow over the last one-and-one-half decades. He has recorded more than a dozen records — full-lengths and EPs.

When House was still school as a youngster, athletics were his main focus – golf specifically. Then, things changed direction.

When he was in high school, the talented golf prospect landed a role in a musical and was surprised to learn that he had a natural talent for singing. House bought his first guitar for $100 from a friend, turned down a golf scholarship to Ohio University and instead went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and started to teach himself how to play the guitar and write songs.

After graduating, House moved to Nashville and independently released his first album “Upland” in 2003. He signed with Vancouver- based label, Nettwerk, and he released “Lost & Found” in 2004.

In 2007, House put out “Flying Upside Down,” which was produced by Jeff Trott and featuring Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. That disc lifted him to headliner status and garnering commercial and critical acclaim with his intelligent, heart-felt lyrics and melodies.

“I think that people who come to my shows are with me no matter what,” said House. “That comes from travelling a lot – and playing a lot of shows. I only do about 90 shows a year now. I try to take some time off to be with my family because I’ve got two little girls. And, I do projects around the house.”

House lives in Nashville with his wife, Jane, and two daughters, Emma and Clara. On this tour, House will be on the road for several weeks performing in a duo format with Brian Elmquist.

Video link for Griffin House – https://youtu.be/xvzeat-VFEE.

The show at Locks at Sona will start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $

Other upcoming shows at Locks at Sona are Joan Shelley with special guest Nathan Salsburg on May 30, Caroline Spence with special guest Kyle Scwartzwelder on May 31, An Evening with Mindy Smith on June 2, and Michael Fracasso featuring Charlie Sexton and Michael Ramos on June 5.


Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present HELLO, I MUST BE GOING! – A Tribute to Phil Collins on May 31, The Matt Galletti Band on June 1, Open Mic with guest hosts Elliot and Andrew from Vinyl Artifacts on June 2 and Bottle Rockets with special guest Sarah Borges on June 5.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Bet Williams with Kevin MacConnell and Dave Biddison on May 31 and Heston and Friends: Unplugged  on June 1.

The Colonial Theatre (Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610- 917-1228, www.thecolonialtheatre.com) will have 10,000 Maniacs with special guest Jackson Howard on June 1.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com) will present Hypnotic Eye on May 31.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Freddie McGregor & the Big Ship Band with special guest Jah People on May 30, Unlimited Devotion on May 31, and Tal Wilkenfeld on June 5.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) presents Toots & The Maytals on May 30, and Doo Wop Vol. 5 on June 1.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents Tommy Tutone on May 30, Chris Duarte & Indigenous on May 31, Liberty Comedy Presents “She-Said, He-Said” on June 1, Johnny A.: Just Me & My Guitars on June 2, and Junior Brown on June 5.

The Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) is presenting “The Book of Mormon” now through June 9.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting “Lend Me A Tenor” now through June 23.

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