REVIEW by Willard Manus

Phillip Walker has been playing and singing the blues ever since the early 1950s, when he teamed up with the likes of Lonesome Sundown and Lonnie Brooks on the Texas Gulf Coast (Janis Joplin country). Influenced by B.B. King, Gatemouth Brown and Clifton Chenier, in whose band he served for a spell, Walker fronted his first band when he was 20, at the Black and Tan Bar in El Paso (which was packed nightly with black soldiers from nearby Ft. Bliss). He also led a group, across the border, at the notorious Lobby Inn in Juarez, Mexico (where you could dig blues from 6 PM to 6 AM).

Walker has never made it to the top echelon of the blues world, but that doesn't mean he isn't a first-reate singer and guitarist. The proof is on his latest disc, THE PHILLIP WALKER BIG BAND--LIVE AT BISCUITS & BLUES. Recorded in San Francisco, June 12 & 13, 2002 by M.C. Records (www.mc-records.com), the CD features Walker on 12 cuts, all of which sizzle with his characteristic fire and flair.

"Hello My Darling," written by Walker, kicks off things and puts the crowd and the band in a toe-tappin' mood. Walker's musicians include Bobby Lester on tenor sax, Joe Campbell on trumpet, James Thomas, bass & vocals, Earl Mallory, baritone sax, Aaaron Tucker, drums & vocals, Carl Vickers, sax & trumpet, Alvee Ventura, keyboards. Such artists as Charles Musselwhite (harmonica), Angeles Strehli (vocals) and Rick Estrin (harmonica) make guest appearances. Together these artists get the most out of such new and old tunes as "Think," "Respirator Blues" and Walker's most famous ditty,"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark."