Ira Walker is a master of his craft. The all around musician and producer has his metaphors nailed (in his conversation and his songs), along with his classic 1, 4, 5 blues riffs, his empowered and experienced vocal tone, his spirited banter, and his smooth walking baselines. There is a bouncy ease about his music that casually combines all forms of blues, from north to south.
Walker has been playing as a studio and live musician since the late '70s, but it took the insistence of a friend to prompt him to record his first solo album just last year.
"A friend who was the musical director for the Grammys said, 'You're going to get left behind, you have so much great material you've got to release it,'" said Walker. "I've never shown my pictures in a gallery, but I've been a painter the whole time. Comme ci comme ça; why not show them in the gallery?"
Like the stars of last year's Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, Walker has been on the periphery of musical history for most of his career. He has played with legends from Steve Miller to Carlos Santana, Tommy Castro and Keb' Mo. He has 14 album-producing credits to his name and he co-wrote "I Wanna Go Back" for Eddie Money, a song that reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.
"A lot of people miss the point. They say, 'Where has he been? What's he doing popping up now?,'" explained Walker. "I was being a father," he answered. "I don't have any kind of dreams of stardom. I've got really simple dreams. I want to live and make music."
And that's what Walker has been doing at his home studio 40 miles south of Mount Shasta. With years of production experience, making his own album was a relatively easy transition. In fact, the last five tracks of Blame Me are recorded using only one musician, Walker himself. But the transition hasn't been all rainbows and guitar licks. Walker is as critical of his work as he is of others. Luckily, he had a wealth of material to draw from to put Blame Me together.
"I'm a prolific songwriter and lyricist," said Walker who went on to explain that he writes 15-20 songs a month. He even sang me two songs while I was on the phone with him, one he had written a few days earlier about a couple's fight he had overheard and one about my name that he made up on the spot. "I'm not a gourmet chef. I'm just someone who can feed an army. Every time I make a meal it's not in the confines of a perfect situation. That's how you should look at what I do, I'm a guerilla cook."
But Walker is clear that he doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity.
"I don't want to sell junk food," he said with a sudden sincerity in his voice. "I would rather make a little bit of money selling the good shit out of the garden. Making my meals fresh. I don't want to be McDonalds."
Ira Walker with The Junk Yard Lords
8 pm, Sat., July 12.
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.