Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Bluesman Joe Louis Walker brings some 'Hellfire' to 'Woodsongs'

Guitarist Joe Louis Walker entered The Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame last week.
Guitarist Joe Louis Walker entered The Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame last week.

'WoodSongs Old-Time Hour': Joe Louis Walker, Aoife O'Donovan

7 p.m. May 20 at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St., at Elm Tree Ln. $10. (859) 252-8888.

Chances are, if you started your career by getting thrown off the stage by blues giant Lightnin' Hopkins, you, too, would come to remember the humiliation as if it were an achievement.

That's what guitarist Joe Louis Walker does in the bio material for his 2012 album Hellfire. That run-in dates to the '60s, when Walker was playing as a teen in the house band at the famed San Francisco music emporium The Matrix and opening for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, jazz great Thelonious Monk and the cantankerous Hopkins.

Today, nearly a half-century and some 23 solo recordings later, Walker has established himself as one of the most heralded bluesmen of his generation. Underscoring that was Walker's induction last week into The Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame. The honor was the latest achievement for an artist who has rubbed shoulders with such musicians as B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Mike Bloomfield and James Cotton.

But it's on albums like Hellfire that you fully sense what all the fuss is about, from the slow blues strength of I Won't Do That to the gospel fervency of Soldier for Jesus to the rocking authority of Movin' On.

Walker will perform for Monday's taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour with folk/bluegrass roots-inspired singer Aoife O'Donovan. Read more about her in this weekend's Living Sunday section.

Saturday with Todd

Looking for a serious Saturday night departure from the pop norm? Take a road trip to Bogart's, 2621 Vine Street, Cincinnati, for the regional return of Todd Rundgren.

A compositional, instrumental, vocal, production and technological innovator for more than four decades, Rundgren is largely known to the pop mainstream for a smattering of '70s radio hits (Hello It's Me, I Saw the Light and Can We Still Be Friends?). But he seldom operates as a nostalgist. Rundgren's recording and performance projects over the years have included prog-rock ensembles, solo acoustic settings, orchestra-size pop units, a cappella groups, lounge-inspired bossa nova presentations, one-man-band techno workouts and lean guitar rock units.

Saturday's Cincinnati show will have Rundgren favoring the electronica-style beats and grooves from his new album State in a trio format with longtime stage mates Jesse Gress on guitar and drummer Prairie Prince. (8:30 p.m. $25. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or

Country couple

Should country music better suit your mood, Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, at Interstate 75 at Exit 62 in Renfro Valley, has your weekend mapped out.

On Friday, Jo Dee Messina performs. The Massachusetts-born singer was a major presence on country radio during the late '90s with hits such as I'm Alright and Stand Beside Me, and then reaffirmed her popularity with the electric 2005 single My Give a Damn's Busted. (8 p.m. $35, $40,$45. 1-800-765-7464.

On Saturday, Renfro Valley welcomes Restless Heart, the country pop troupe celebrating its 30th anniversary, even though it essentially disbanded for a few years in the '90s. Its personnel have shifted over the years, but the Nashville-based group is back to the late '80s lineup (vocalist Larry Stewart, guitarist Greg Jennings, keyboardist Dave Innis, bass guitarist Paul Gregg, drummer John Dittrich) that cut the band's biggest hits (I'll Still Be Loving You, This Rock Won't Roll and The Bluest Eyes in Texas, which was covered in the 1999 movie Boys Don't Cry). (8 p.m.; $20, $25, $30.)

Still wailing

The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center will team with the Troubadour Concert Series for a show Tuesday by the seminal reggae band The Wailers.

The ensemble was established in the '60s and became known largely as the primary recording and performance platform for the iconic Bob Marley. That teaming generated such reggae classics as Lively Up Yourself and Trenchtown Rock. The Wailers continued after Marley's death in 1981 and today has just one member from its '70s heyday: bassist Ashton "Family Man" Barrett. The Wailers' lone post-Marley hit was a collaboration with a very different type of singer: country-pop beachcomber Kenny Chesney (2008's Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven).

The Wailers have been a regular on the Lexington club circuit during the past decade, with appearances for WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour and at the long-gone Dame. (7:30 p.m. $34.50.