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Joe Louis Walker tops Apple Blossom lineup

  • San Francisco native blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Joe Louis Walker will perform at the Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival. (MICHAEL WEINTROB)

Talk about getting the right guy for the job.

For the second year, Sebastopol's annual Apple Blossom Festival is devoting one of its two days and one of its two stages to a blues festival.

The overall festival runs April 12-13, with the blues lineup running the second day, and the headliner this time is a big name in blues with a long Bay Area history.

Joe Louis Walker, born on Christmas Day in San Francisco almost 65 years ago, has been playing and singing the blues since 1965, working with many of the greats in not only blues, but rock, jazz and gospel music as well.

Last year, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis; and earlier this year, he came out with his 25th album, “Hornet's Nest,” recorded in Nashville on the Alligator label.

“I've played all kinds of music, with everybody from Bobby Weir (Grateful Dead) to Johnny Winter, and from John Lee Hooker to Mississippi Fred McDowell,” Walker said by phone from his New York home.

He has covered a wide range of blues styles, from his acoustic album, “Silvertone Blues,” in 1999 to his two most recent releases, this year's “Hornet's Nest” and 2012's “Hellfire.”

“'Hornet's Nest' and 'Hellfire' are guitar-based, with a harder rock edge, which I like,” he said. “That's part of Joe Louis Walker.”

But he remains deeply rooted in classic blues and soul music.

“I made two albums with B.B. King, a few with James Cotton, and I've worked with all kinds of people: G.E. Smith, T-Bone Walker, Memphis Horns, Tower of Power — you name it,” Walker said.

He has played with jazz greats as well, including pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonists Wayne Shorter and James Carter.

And who has had the most influence on his music?

“No one person,” he answered. “I've played with so many different people. I grew up in San Francisco with the Fillmore Auditorium before, during and after the hippie invasion, so I'm sort of an amalgam of a lot of kinds of music.”

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