Blues Revue

With a scope that includes straight blues, up-to-date R&B, and Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" reimagined with a heavy funk rhythm, Used and Defiant (Ehlona Records) is an appealing release from Wisconsin's Charles Walker Band.  Saxophonist and primary songwriter Walker works with a tough band fronted by Miss Shanna Jackson, a supple singer who can evince jazzy cool and evoke raw emotion.  "Funky Sexy" is pure satin-sheets soul with a hint of reggae; "Stomped All Over" rivals the latest of late-night blues; and "Exquisite Soul" updates "Tighten Up." "One (Nation Under U.S.)" and the title track address political and social topics.

Maximum Ink

Rating: 10/10

Tight, classy kick ass blues from Milwaukee, WI. Deep grooving, high energy music propelled by the charismatic vocals of Miss Shanna Jackson and expertly supported by 4 seasoned career musicians including songwriter and bandleader Charles Walker himself. Music to season your soul with.

Soul Bag

Used and Defiant

This album uses a pluralistic and contemporary approach in an attempt at a revival of the blues through adding elements of soul and funk, though there are also more traditional blues forms (Chicago blues, early rock and roll).  This album has a slightly different line up from the band’s last work, “The World and Things” but the listener will applaud each artist's performance, with special accolades to guitarist Misha Siegfried, keyboardist Rob Waters and the leader/saxophonist Charles Walker (not to be confused with the Tennessee singer).   The remarkable lead vocalist, Shanna Jackson, is reminiscent of Shemekia Copeland’s power and  Zora Young's vocal range.  The entire album grooves deeply and there is never a dull moment, proving the band’s tremendous genius.  One listen to the smoking hot track “Arrogance” will win over even the most reluctant listener.  An album with diversity, spontaneity, and wholly gratifying, this album appeals to a wide spectrum of listeners.


Charles Walker Band moves beyond traditional blues
Funkin' it up

Charles Walker is a musician in search of a genre.

"This CD strays more from the blues," says Walker, 32. "It's more restless and more political."

This Friday, Nov. 27, at the Brink Lounge, the Charles Walker Band will celebrate the release of a fourth album. Used and Defiant is the next step in the evolution of this five-piece band, whose members live in Madison and Milwaukee.

"When I write songs I try to reflect on life," says Walker. "Life isn't always about the party or about a breakup. Our new songs are heavy on R&B and funk because they give us more lyrical room and they have the kind of energy our younger audience wants to see."

That's clear from the opening rant of the title track: "When I was born, MLK lost his life. As a baby, daddy took a different wife. I was so confused. We couldn't get health care. Mama sat and cried. Her work didn't get us nowhere."

There's an urgency to Used and Defiant that's built on the intensity of Walker's tenor saxophone jams. It's also built on the swagger of Shanna Jackson's passionate vocals.

The members of the Charles Walker Blues Band who live in Madison include Kent Hamele, the bass player who has played with Paul Filipowicz. Then there's Walker's drummer, Joey B. Banks, who has previously backed the guitar work of Jim Schwall.

Walker grew up in Portage and attended UW-Eau Claire, where he studied jazz. He moved to Milwaukee in 2003 to be part of a bigger music scene. That decision, he says, has yielded uneven results.

"Milwaukee is really a cover-band city," says Walker. "A lot of the people who come out to shows want to hear jukebox."

But Walker also credits Milwaukee with edging his band toward funk. "There are a lot of R&B influences here," he adds.

Still, the ambitions of Walker's band have them gigging regularly beyond the Brew City borders. In the Madison area, their itinerary includes the Harmony Bar on Atwood, the Hody Bar in Middleton and the Brink.

"I'm a high school English teacher by day," says Walker. "It's hard to wear both hats. The band has been playing a lot, and the members want to travel more. We've been going to cities like Chicago and Indianapolis, and I do our booking."

Despite those challenges, Walker remains energized by his band's latest direction. "My favorite song off the new album is 'Life Is Now.' I like the feel of it, and I like the lyrics." On that song, Walker's bittersweet sax accompanies words about coping with life's limits. "You may wish for better days, but you better not wish your life away," sings Shanna Jackson.

Used and Defiant finds the Charles Walker Band seizing their own day. "We have a lot of people come up to us at our shows," says Walker. "They say, 'I don't usually like blues, but this is different. I don't know what it is, but I like it.'"


For Your Ears Only

We recently read that blue's legend Robert Cray had commented on a local up and coming band. The comment read 'these guys sound good!'  The band he was talking about is the Charles Walker Band so we proceeded to check them out.  Robert was right on, these guys sounded good, real good.  Lead singer Shanna Jackson has an incredible voice, is easy on the eyes, and works the crowd like an accomplished diva.  Accompanying Shanna on vocals is band founder Charles Walker a true blues man.  Charles does a superb job on the saxophone and demonstrates distinction on the organ.  Lead guitarist Misha Siegfried proves he can hang with the best of them and gave us a full night of smoking riffs.  Bassist Kent Hamele is a less less flamboyant but does a respectable job of keeping up with all that is going on.  Drummer Joey Bands is a notable percussionist and can really turn it on when called upon.  The band does a lot of original music which not only showcases Shanna's great voice and Charles' outrageous sax ability, but the rest of the bands musical talent as well. To close the night they did their rendition of T Bone Walker's 'Stormy Monday' and blew everybody away!  Charles was wailing his his sax while walking through the crowd, Shanna was pouring out her heart and soul, Misha jumped up on a table much to the surprise of the people who were sitting there and proceeded to blast the roof off the place with his performance.  Absolutely incredible if you are a blues aficionado you will want to see this band.  Rock on!



All things considered, there are probably a couple of thousand bands around the country, in every corner bar that still books live music, doing what the Charles Walker Band does: playing the blues. But that takes nothing away from the Charles Walker Band, a quintet whose chops are strong, whose command of the genre is certifiable, and who generate excitement at every turn. Walker is the nominal leader, a saxophonist and keyboardist who's learned from the best (his organ work in particular is spellbindingly tasty). But Walker's true calling is as bandleader, and he's put together a solid unit here. In particular, lead vocalist Shanna Jackson is a powerhouse, a gritty belter who's often a bit on the raw side but who uses that coarseness to her advantage, exuding a realness all too often missing in many of today's by-the-books neo-blues outfits. Lead guitarist Misha Siegfried, bassist Kent Hamele, and drummer Joey B. Banks click together superbly, fleshing out Walker's compositions so that they sound like age-old classics. Yes, you've heard it all before, but you probably haven't heard it done this well in a while.                                                                         

Living Blues


Ehlona records

Not to be confused with the late NYC guitarist or the Nashville singer of the same name, this Charles Walker is a saxophonist from Milwaukee, who, although he doesn't sing a word, earned his leader's credits by producing, arranging and writing all of the disc's 9 songs, as well as soloing on most tracks and leading the instrumental Hand Clappin.  The vocal chores are handled well by Miss Shanna Jackson, a gospel influenced shouter, while Turkish guitarist Emre Alp and organist Rob Waters share solo space with Walker and bassist Kent Hamele and drummer Nic Fugate make up the rhythm section.  Unlike many Milwaukee bands, the group's reference point is more R&B than Chicago blues.  This is a highly professional effort from a band that shows the potential to move beyond a strictly local orbit.

Soul Bag


Rating: 4/5 stars

Ehlona records

Dog catcher / Slow thunder / Otta mind / Ain't no doors / Hand clappin / Gamblin on love / Mil town blues / Cold as hell / Queen bee / Holdin out. (46:12)


This Charles Walker is not the singer native to Nashville who works with Johnny Jones. He may have the same name but is in reality an alto and tenor saxophonist who also knows how to play a keyboard, although it is Rob Waters who is in charge of B3 and piano on the album. The group based in Wisconsin has existed for only for 3 years, but his members, although young people, have a lot of experience. Nice deep voice, fair intonations and subtle, obvious pitch: the vocalist Shanna Jackson has a voice full of soul who hauntingly brings to mind Zora Young. She knows how to belt when it is needed, but do not fooled by this; she can be subtle as well. The guitarist Emre Alp is Turkish and his playing has very quick but nonchalant notes, with a big purity of sound and full of feeling. You can hear his influence from Californian and Texan style guitarists with a more “classic” sound, and he plays with delicacy and intelligence of musical investment.  Low harmonics are provided with simplicity but on time by Kent Hamele (the veteran of the team) and Nic Fugate allows a comfortable, on-time bedding for the rhythm section. They note finally the presence of Steve Cohen on the harmonica on two titles.

The ten titles display the unique authorship of Charles Walker. The music is varied from blues to rhythm and blues.  The sax on the rhythm and blues cuts creates sensual sounds and genuine blues-soul.  As well, the sax provides an ambiance in that is authentic with blues roots, crossbred with Chicago-blues. We hear the jazzy “Cold as Hell” and the very long “Gamblin on Love”, which gives the opportunity for nice leads from organ and allows Shanna to express and showcase herself entirely. The quick tempo and authentic shuffle of “Queen Bee” shows off this band’s credentials and the dynamism of their training.

This was definitely a wonderful disc!  Freshness of interpretation, tones without embellishments, successful installation, new direction of ideas, general enthusiasm, the respect for traditions: one very good album!

Keys and Chords

We fished out an unknown band on CD Baby, The Charles Walker Blues Band. The five musicians can be compared, with regard to music style, to the more heavier work of Koko Taylor and Shemekia Copeland, to W.C. Clark with the mellow work of BB. Nevertheless, they preserve a style all their own. As a guitarist they, chose a Turkish man who has traditional training with a great blues riffs. “The World And Things” stand full with its own compositions and are numbers which were written with attention to all instruments, particularly the organ because I uphold that keyboards always give a special flair to a number, which can also affect the music direction. That these musicians are well at home in this blues world is made immediately clear with the swinging Hand Clappin in which Charles Walker, tenor and alto sax, steal the show. As well, there is no number on this album for someone to sit quietly on a chair. Fortunately for us, there is the slow song, Gamblin On Love, a song of approximately 10 minutes follow that was incorporated from a live recording in the Cuda Cafe. The Hammond organ plays a distinguished role but is assisted by the guitar of Emre Alp. Shining solos appear throughout the album, some of which strike out violently (and appropriately). The best numbers, besides all the slow numbers, of course, are, in my opinion, Queen Bee and Dog Catcher.


    The Charles Walker Bluesband, from Wisconsin, is at home in all blues and R&B styles. Leader and saxophonist Charles Walker and the fantastic singer Miss Shanna Jackson unify the sound. Charles Walker has written all the music on this CD. Miss Shanna Jackson is a singer in the style of Koko Taylor and Shemekia Copeland, with a powerful, soulful voice, with which she brings freedom and strong feeling to the very different styles of music on the CD. Surprising guitarist Emre Alp, which you can see by his name already, is no American, but is a Turk, and plays the blues "with more" feeling than much of his colleagues from, for example, Texas or Chicago who I have already worked with and heard. Such as I already said, variety is the trump card of this CD, from stamping boogies ("Queen Bee", no, not the well-known cover) to very somber ("Holdin Out") and everything in between. The beautiful sax sound of Charles and the Hammond organ of Rob Waters lay down a beautiful basis for the rhythm and lead work of Emre and the real blues singer, Miss Shanna Jackson. A must listen is the beautiful slow blues "Ain't No Doors" with brilliant roles from the Hammond of Rob Waters, but especially the rhythm of Emre Alp. They create a link to how well they perform live because included on the CD is one live number, "Gamblin On Love", and there is no noticeable difference with the studio-live quality. Also the press is unanimously praising the band, concerning their performance in live shows. "These guys are really good," is a quote from Mr. Robert Cray which saw the group at the Barrymoore, where he was headlining act. Not to be repetitive, but there is beauty in these "The World & Things"



The Charles Walker Blues Band was established in Milwaukee three years ago by Aaron Charles Walker, who before this had studied as a jazz musician.  He was inspired by the greats, from John Coltrane to Lester Young and Charlie Parker.  Before starting this project, he has led another group called Muddy Blue. One of the first members of the Charles Walker Blues Band, Miss Shanna Jackson (vocalist), seems comparable to Shemekia Copeland and Koko Taylor.  Emre Alp, another original member who is Turkish, plays the lead guitar. Lastly, Kent Hamele and Nic Fugate, form the rhythm section, Kent on bass, Nic on Drums.  Before recording their current album, the group had previously recorded three albums: "Keep Takin", "Hotel Room Blues", and finally an album recorded live, "Live and Low down", made in the beginning 2007. From this, one can say that this group has already proven to be prolific. The most recent album “The World and Things”, was written exclusively by Charles. The first song, "Dog Catcher" smokes till it sizzles from the very first note. Powerful, natural and cut perfectly for the blues, the voice of Miss Shanna Jackson is divine. Similarly solid like a rock, the rhythm section is infallible. The guitar is limited to a rhythmic role, but the listener can feel it right on time, every time. The saxophone of Charles is always ready to leap in while the organ Hammond organ of Rob Waters adds ornamentation to each number. "Slow Thunder", the second song, captures the essence of soul funk and Jackson’s voice and intonation on this number excels.

 Particularly inventive, Walker is a musician bursting with talent. Well capable of building a melody line, his tenor sax thrusts through the mix powerfully. "Outta Mind" is musically a blues built on a unique groove in which the Hammond organ takes an active role in rhythm, creating a masterful mood. And tastefully, it is the guitarist, Dr. Emre Alp, who plays an amazing solo during “Outta Mind”, which displays an unquestionable talent. This is followed up by Rob Waters on organ, who makes the organ take off and sail. The pure blues number, "Ain't No Doors", starts out soft and similar to old country blues but takes off into a full heavy “butt rocker” shortly thereafter. The vocals of Shanna are always sublime, but the blues master on the album is Charles. He is a true virtuoso with the saxophone. A treat! In the instrumental, "Hand clappin'”, the song moves quickly. A boogy shuffle, which Rob Waters switches to piano, while the band leader wails on his honkin' saxophone, of which he has impressive control!

"Gamblin on Love" constitutes the slow, ritual blues. A long, live recorded cut from the Cuda Cafe, all the musicians display a virtuosic talent.  In particular, the voice of Miss Jackson, organ of Waters, as well as the guitar of our Turkish teaser, shine in this slow blues. There is a maximum release of raw energy in this track.  On the fast Chicago shuffle, "Mil Town Blues", there is a guest musician: Steve Cohen. Also from Milwaukee, he blows a mean harmonica (for your information, this song also displays again Alps excellent rhythm playing) before yielding a solo to Rob on the piano. A slow gospel blues, "Cold as Hell" was masterfully designed for the magic voice of Shanna Jackson. As well, the lyrics of the song display a passionate text. "Queen bee" is another shuffle resulting from the Windy City. Emre Alp finds deliciously raunchy chords to display on this rocking tune while Steve Cohen returned to blow his harp! "Holdin out" completes the masterpiece, which is a very melodic ballad blues, characterized by a last excellent solo of Dr. Alp on the guitar. If this album, which is obviously wonderful, had a fault, it would be that the leader does not appear more on the album.

The Scene

  Keeping a blues band alive can give you the blues


     You think you've got troubles?  Try leading a blues band that does original music in these times when the blues seems to be persona non grata in an area once stewing in the blues.

     "It seems like it's a lot harder to find work in a blues band.  It's a lot of work to keep the band as busy as we are," says Aaron Charles Walker, the saxophone-playing leader of the Charles Walker Blues Band, a quintet that sets up shop at Cranky Pat's Thursday, Dec. 14.

     "It seems the general feeling among club owners is that people want to go out and hear a live jukebox," Walker said.  "A lot of clubs want to know how much cover stuff you do.  They want you to pretty much do stuff people know, which locks you into being a cover band, which we're not."

     Walker says his adopted hometown of Milwaukee is a particularly good example of a bad music scene.

     "There's not a great blues scene at all," he said.  "Milwaukee is one of the worst scenes for music, as far as I'm concerned.  If you a cover band, no matter how bad you are, you can get all the work you want to in Milwaukee."

     But Walker says if he and the band can just get a foot in the door and play a place, "there's never been an issue once you get there."

     That is, he says, because he and the band can deliver the read deal.

     "The impression I get is everyone feels they know how to play the blues," he said.  "You just play three chords and you're playing the blues.  There's a lot more than goes into it.  A lot of listening, a lot of studying, a lot of emotion, otherwise you're just playing the same stuff over and over again.  In that case I could see why someone wouldn't want to come back and see you, if you're not changing it up and not being fresh and original.

     People want to see a high energy show," he said.  "They've had a long day at work.  They want to see someone who gives them their energy back.  They want to have a good time.  That's what our job is, to provide that energy and good time."

     The band is about to undergo another transition with the departure this month of singer Queen Nadine Neal, who was featured on last January's smoking 10-tune release "Hotel Room Blues."

     Walker said he already has a replacement vocalist, and the band's third studio CD, "The World and Things" will be released in February.

     While this will be the band's first time at Cranky Pat's, they've appeared at the late, lamented Heroes in Green Bay, and have been at both the Cold Shot and Copper Rock in Appleton.

     "We're heard a lot of good things about Cranky Pat's," Walker said.

Blues Revue

On  Hotel Room Blues (Ehlona Records), the Charles Walker Blues Band plays an all-original set spanning jump ("What I Like") minor-key blues ("On Your Floor"), slow shuffles ("Broken Child"), R&B grinders a la "Night Train" ("Burnin Barrel Blues," featuring Rob Waters' excellent B-3), and funk ("Shot of Love").  Sonics are slightly muffled, and Walker tends to extend his sax solos too long, but vocalist Queen Nadine Neal is excellent and guitarist Emre Alp is in the pocket with his rhythms and right on time with leads.  The silky-smooth title track closes the set on a high note.

Living Blues 2010 No.205 Vol. 41 #1

ight, Walker & Co. have an explicitly political agenda here, as evidenced by his liner notes (he dedicates the song One to "our former President, George Bush, for all the lies") and the American flag-themed artwork that graces the cover.  Whether on a rock-infused version of Robert Johnson's Stones in My Passway or a wafting 3/4 blues ballad like the wronged woman's lament Stomped All Over, the band lays down sounds that invoke steely resolve to fight against mistreatment-both personal and political-and strive for a better day.

Walker either wrote or co-wrote everything here except the Johnson song, and he's adept at melding tough-minded righteousness with non-didactic lyric flair.  The title song, an autobiographical vignette of a ghetto child who came up[ the hard way, both laments hard times and praises the human resiliency it takes to overcome them; the lyrics of the aforementioned One [Nation Under U.S.] portray a society in which fear, violence, and despair threaten both the social order and the human soul.

But there are good times on offer, as well.  Bump It is a rocked-out barnburner that features vocalist Shanna Jackson at her strongest, as she shouts out admonitions to "Shake it, rock it, move, grove it, let it roll" with unfettered abandon.  On Exquisite Soul, a burbling up-tempo ballad, she entreats, "I'm beautiful down in my heart/ why don't you come on and be beautiful, too?" over a crisp, timbale-and-bass propelled backing.

The only potential drawback of this set is Jackson's difficultly with some of Walker's rhyme schemes and melodies, which occasionally sound labored.  If you can acclimate yourself to her vagaries of pitch and the sometimes odd, off-beat syllabic curlicues of Walker's lyrics, this disc provides a satisfying blast of high-energy modern blues with a funkrock edge, as well as a bracing message of resistance and hope.


This band out of the Middle West has some very smooth and polished chops down, particularly when it comes to Blues, R & B and Soul.  None other than Charles Walker leads it on Tenor and Alto Saxes.  However he is very ably supported and spurred on by Shanna Jackson's vocals that, no matter the genre, are spot on the money. There is more than enough angst and shout in her voice to carry the vocal load by herself; it is a confident and sure voice.  Her singing both in range and style might remind the listener of Koko Taylor.  This is a disc filled with tight ensemble playing and when the solos are taken they are good, each of the players has spent time and effort thinking them through.  There is little wasted motion on this disc; it is a tight and economical working of the blues (be they from Texas, Chicago, or jump blues) and R & B and Soul.  There were no credits for the writers on the copy I had so I don't know who wrote the songs, though I suspect it is Charles Walker.

Blues Matters! Issue 33

Aaron Charles Walker is the saxophonist and leader of this band, formed two years ago in Milwaukee.  He describes his band as " a group of misfits who play music over a hundred years old created by the disenfranchised".  This modestly only begins to cover this fresh derivation of an ancient music genre: so many styles from Texas, Mississippi and Illinois are reflected in his love for the many disparate influences, but are packaged with one remarkable difference-his sax.  This is always to the fore, either driving the music along, or supplying a new take in the solos.  Add into the mix every tune being self-penned, plus the heart-wrenching vocals of Milwaukee's own Queen Nadine Neal, and it will truly make you sit up and take notice.  The album kicks off with a bustling instrumental Burnin' Barrel Blues', before we are treated to a dramatic tempo changes in 'What I Like', where Neal's smooth vocals put one in the mind of early Aretha.  The heavy backbeat and powerful bass of 'On Your Floor' tells classic Blues tales of "killing floors" and "drowning in my own tears".  Thereafter we are treated to the full panoply of Blues styles, great tunes, intelligent lyrics and superb instrumentation throughout.  The album is perfectly rounded off with the instrumental 'E & A Express' followed by the pleading 'Hotel Room Blues'.

Blues Matters! Issue 41


This is more like it! Charles Walker is a very lively tenor and alto sax player who runs a band which vibrates with energy and attitude.  He also gives jazz a healthy, vigorous nod in his various stylings, and these ten tracks, with lead vocals by Miss Shanna Jackson (that's what it says on the liner notes - so maybe she isn't married) will satisfy modern Blues fans and leave you gasping for more.  There are some nice touches here too; 'Slow Thunder' is dedicated to Walker's wife Amy, with the notation, 'Who can listen and be reminded of us/Even when I'm not around/I love you."  The band, which features the unusually named Dr. Emre Alp on great guitar, rocks like crazy and Miss Jackson's vocals, especially on 'Queen Bee' are exemplary throughout.  'Mil Town Blues' and 'Queen Bee' also provide something for fans of good harp playing with the stirring contribution from Steve Cohen, whilst Rob Waters' steaming Hammond B3 contributes to that essential, Blues-lounge style.  Great, jazzy, modern Blues, played by people who knows exactly how it should be done.

Blues Wax Issue #401

Lookin' For a BMA Nod Here

"Jump back woman/ There's a new dog in your neighborhood!" This is the opening line from the new release from the Charles Walker Band. Take it as a warning! This disc is cookin' with solid Blues, as blue as blue can get. The group has a contemporary Soul-Blues sound, not the deep southern style, but a little further north with a strong bass and organ driving the group along.

Charles Walker writes the songs, leads the group, blows the saxophone, and is the driving wheel on the organ. The voice of this group has the pipes that could make a church steeple shake, but instead Shanna Jackson decides to shake her moneymaker front and center stage. Jackson's vocals nicely reflect the great female singers women of Chicago, like Koko Taylor, Shemekia Copeland, and Zora Young.

The man who keeps the bass beat thumping is Kent Hamele. His last gig was with Cadillac Joe and Paul Flipowitz. The beat-keeper, Joey B, Banks, has played with Luther Allison, Koko Taylor, Jimmy Johnson, and the Siegel/Schwall Band. He pushes the songs when they need pushin' and lays back when it's time. Misha Siegfried greases the guitar neck after many experiences with several different Blues and R&B bands.

As I said, this is not the deep southern Soul music, but the northern urban Soul music from the Chicago area. The musicians come from Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; St/ Paul, Minnesota, and other parts in that general area of the U.S. And they all combine their talents for a feel, a good feel, a strong feel, a real feel. They tapped into themselves to push their limits on the album and create an amazing listening experience.

The songs here are all crafted with room for everyone to participate. There are plenty of instrumental solos and each one is tasty, well placed, and never overdone. Even when you listen for the music behind the vocals, the mix is right on the money and each instrument is making its own niche where it needs to. Be sure to listen to "Holdin' Out." The song could easily be up for Song of the Year at the Blues Music Awards. It is a song about freedom and really grabs ear.

Now I did say earlier that Shanna Jackson's vocals could hang with the likes of Koko, Shemekia, and Zora. That is not a group that anyone falls right into. Jackson has such a vitality in her vocal chords that you believe and feel every word she sings. She is a woman who can take the stage with all the confidence in the world to entertain the crowd.

Charles Walker can be heard very clearly on each track no matter what instrument he is playing. The mix is great and you really hear the organ grinding out the tracks. The organ is an integral part of the album and it sounds very sweet. Siegried is a tight guitar player; he can just ride the rhythm and fit into his part of the song, but when his solos come up he lets loose and plays clean, cutting solos.

The disc gets addicting the more you listen to it. I popped it in just to take a quick listen at first and left it in the player and then started it over again. This album has so much life it'll jump outta the CD player and grab you by the hands and make you wanna move!

Keys and Chords

The roots of this dynamic band lie in traditional blues, but over the years since Motown, funk and even reggae were added. They can be compared to a wide range of musicians such as Sly and the Family Stone, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelics and even James Brown. Growing up, Charles Walker was influenced by artists like Luther Allison, Stevie Wonder, and Prince. He has been playing saxophone in the sixth grade, and continued its training on sax and keyboards throughout college.

Porsche Carmon lead singer and plays flute, Donnie Mac plays bass, organ and keyboard, and Terence Pettigrew drums. In discussing"Hope", the first song on the CD, Walker said: "It just reminds People that no matter how hard things may seem, you have to keep holding on to whatever is your hope and believe That things will get better. Try and stay focused on the positive. I wrote this song after going through a divorce."  You can clearly hear the funk, based on a blues form. "Hustler Hollywood" is a slower, 70's Curtis Mayfield feel, while "In the Sun" clearly possesses the Motown sound. Smooth in Love "is a beautiful R&B ballad.

Soul Tracks

Funk is the most egalitarian of the musical genres that have emerged since the dawning of rock and roll. This is manifested in the relationship between vocalists and the members of the funk band. Musicians have pretty much been an afterthought in much of the public’s mind since Frank Sinatra joined Tommy Dorsey’s band.  That situation was often untenable in a democratic genre such as jazz, but rock and R&B were both tailor made for a talented and charismatic vocalist to be elevated over the band and even other singers.

In the cases where a musician – usually a guitar player – managed to reach superstardom, then he or she usually sang as well. Funk bands are the one rock era outfit in which the band members received some level of respect. That was the case even with artists such James Brown and Sly Stone. Both gave their sidemen and women ample space to create, and musicians such as Maceo Parker and Larry Graham became stars themselves. That is “power of many” is what listeners hear on Relentless, the new CD by the Charles Walker Band.

The 10 songs on Relentless are the musical playground where sultry vocalist Porshe Carmon and the band members show that they can play well together. Carmon is a versatile vocalist who can move from serious songs such as “Momma’s Burden,” a tune that finds her having a conversation with a troubled and often neglectful mother, and the high tempo and brassy “Sold,” a track that serves as a protest of the bill of goods that the rich and powerful sell the middle class and poor, to fun and funky dance numbers.

The band does not shy away from addressing social issues. In addition to “Momma’s Burden” and “Sold,” the album includes the inspirational “Hope.” However, the group aims to get hips shaking on the dance floor, and Relentless has plenty of offerings on that score. Tunes like “Soul Deep” sport lyrics that invite dancers to shake their collective moneymakers while serving as a platform for Walker to display his skills on the keyboard and saxophone.

I watched the group’s perform “Higher” in a video posted on their website, with Walker impressively moving from a call and response with Carmon on keyboards to a call and response with the vocalist while playing the saxophone. Watching footage of Charles Walker Band performance is probably the best way to get a measure of the act. This is a band that is best enjoyed live, which is probably the best compliment that you can give a funk band. However, unless you’re in Milwaukee or Illinois it’s unlikely that you will see them live. In that case, Relentless is more than an adequate substitute.

Museum of Uncut Funk

Charles Walker delivers funky original melodies on the sax and keyboards...The band’s brand of funk comes full circle with Alan Herzer on bass guitar and Terence Pettigrew on drums.  The group’s sound has been said to be reminiscent of the legendary James Brown, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Tower of Power.  Walker’s primary influences include Luther Allison, Stevie Wonder and Prince. Playing the saxophone since the sixth grade, a music teacher told him he had the perfect mouth for it. Like so many others, the Charles Walker Band is another group making their way as independents, and have been making music together for some time.  With six albums to their credit, they have a plethora of original songs that can all be heard on their website at:

The Charles Walker Band has opened for the likes of Aaron Neville, Robert Cray, BB King, Richard Marx, Eddie Shaw (Howlin’ Wolf’s Sax Player), Booker T, Earth, Wind & Fire, Cameo and Bernard Allison.  They hit the road back in January, and their next date is this Friday, March 8th in Middleton, WI.  Walker has no shortage of shows, with dates scheduled through the year until December 14th, where they’ll wrap the road trip in Milwaukee.  The trio will take the stage all over Wisconsin, as well as Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia, and North & South Carolina.  Charles and company have even done a video for their latest single “Hope,” from their latest CD “Relentless.”  You can see it here:  Other songs by the band include: “Soul Deep” “Funked Up” “In The Sun” and “Hollywood Hustler.”

Maximum Ink

Evolving from its blues roots into its current brand of hair-pin, dance-pop grooves, CWB’s old school cool unspools pimped-out bounce and pumped-up funk powered by rubber-band bass, kick ass sax and soulful vocals, Serving up first-class boogie tailored to get-down scoundrels, Milwaukee’s rhythmic ministers’ seventh full-length effort delivers muscle in their message for unrepentant strength to their devilish pleasures, rockin’ foot-loose moves from inner-city sinners and lo-rider vibes for simmering swingers.  Hip-grinding heartache turns no-nonsense mandates into silky-smooth, party-hardy booty-shakes as, “Relentless,” placates, eradicates and demonstrates heavenly seventies amenities in form-fitting flash, flirt-worthy sass and trash-talking panache. Catch Walker and company’s steamy teasing hi-energy shows April 6th in Rochester MN and May 4th in Madison with stops inbetween in Racine, Eau Claire, Milwaukee and Chicago.

Maximum Ink

Voted last year as the Best R&B/Soul Act by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry, Milwaukee’s funky blues outfit show off their chops with the five-track EP, “Ghetto Prophet.” Jumping immediately into whiplash boogie that highlights their ultra-tight horn-keyboard acrobatics, the groove-friendly unit wastes no time storming the dance-floor moving smoothly from fine shiny jive to popping skid-marked soul. The band’s seductive vocalist hosts the smokiest done-me-wrong sass this side of Chicago as the talented crew swoops down in restless caresses, ticklish twists and practiced passions; tackling upbeat scenes as easily as towering power ballads, even owning an electric cover of, “Call Me Maybe,” packed in spunky sunshine. A band best experienced live, CWB will be gigging around Wisconsin this summer, playing Milwaukee’s Summerfest June 27th.

Local Sounds

“extremely strong melodies, stellar arrangements…Walker’s Prince affections come strongly to the fore…”                                              

The Dutch Guy
  • “Sexy bass-lines, funky horns and killer vocals…The best way to get your funk on”
City Beat

Identifying Charles Walker’s influences doesn’t require prolonged exposure or intense examination. The Milwaukee native grew up with a love of the Blues, Funk, Pop and Motown, as evidenced by his devotion to Luther Allison, Prince and Stevie Wonder, and the sound that he’s developed with his latest outfit, appropriately tagged the Charles Walker Band. The band’s music is indicative of his broad influences as well as his innate ability to absorb, translate and transcend them.

Walker began playing the saxophone in sixth grade on the advice of his music teacher, adding keyboards to his arsenal a few years later. In college, Walker studied Classical saxophone until he realized the only Classical saxophonists were teachers. He quickly switched to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s renowned Jazz program, adding yet another facet to his musical repertoire.

Originally starting off a decade ago as the Charles Walker Blues Band, the group’s musical direction was perfectly described by its name.

After a few albums, Walker dropped the “Blues” qualifier and included more Funk, R&B and Soul to the recipe, cooking up an infectious groove on the Charles Walker Band’s 2009 album Used and Defiant. Not long after the name change, Walker connected with Soul vocalist Porsche Carmon through Facebook and invited her to audition for the band. The chemistry was immediate, and Carmon has been the lead vocalist for the band ever since. Her recorded debut with the Charles Walker Band came with the live Resouled! and the studio document Relentless, both in 2012, followed by last year’s powerful five-song EP, Ghetto Prophet. 

The Charles Walker Band is a Soul/Funk juggernaut, hotter than a ghost pepper colonic and funkier than the funkiest mosquito’s tweeter. Uptown Funk might give it to you, but Charles Walker and Co.’s Soul will lift your spirits, engage your head, move your ass, work you up, melt you down and mold your essence into a better version of you. 

The Campus Eye

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, the chatter of the Student Center was replaced by the Charles Walker Band from Milwaukee.  As a part of the Coffee House Series, they brought their brand of funk and retro-R&B to the students of ARCC.

The Charles Walker Band with Walker front and center -Photo by Jordan Rowan

The Charles Walker Band with Walker front and center -Photo by Jordan Rowan

The band consists of Charles Walker on keys, saxophone and vocals, Porsche on vocals and bongos, Bryan Kennedy on bass guitar, Josh McHatten on drums, Nate Pflughoeft on guitar, and Jane Joyce on backup vocals.

The show started with a wailing guitar solo by Pflughoeft.  The band was loose at first and the mic wasn’t turned up enough.  As time went on they started to find the groove and the mic got proper volume, but they didn’t stray much further from the 70s funk artists they have been inspired by.

After the show, Walker said that his major influences are Prince, Sly & the Family Stone, and James Brown, but their sound was more of Earth, Wind, and Fire, yet less inspired.

Most of the set was originals from the band which, for the most part, move along the same beat.  The clear highlight of the set was the Walker penned “Keep Takin.” Walker finally took vocal duties and the beat felt more soulful.  Walker’s saxophone playing was incredible.  His solo included him strolling through the crowd, sitting next to a student, and basically posing for pictures while he wowed the entire crowd.

Unfortunately, what surrounded it was generic funk music and an offbeat cover of “Call Me Maybe” where the song’s infectious hook was lost.  The crowd only displayed interest when the playing was truly great, which meant Walker had to play the saxophone.

The entire show’s clear highlight was Walker’s saxophone.  He said his major sax influence is a member of James Brown’s band named Maceo Parker, but there was more of John Coltrane and Bobby Keys in his playing.  Walker could make a living just playing that saxophone.

Walker roams and wows the crowd with

Walker roams and wows the crowd with “Keep Takin'” sax solo – photo by Jordan Rowan

After the show, Walker discussed his musical influences and thoughts on performing.

“When somebody does what they love and it’s how you feel, like this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now, there’s not another place I’d rather be,” said Walker.

The saxophone wasn’t his first love.  When he was in 5th grade, what he really wanted to learn was the trombone.

“I had to take music, which was basically just singing.  At the end of the year, they marched in different instruments.  The 7th or 8th graders would come in with a flute, with a saxophone, with a trombone.  And when the trombone player came in, I remember him playing and I was like ‘I want to play that, I want to play trombone.’ I wanted to play it so bad,” said Walker.

Following the advice of his band teacher, Walker reluctantly ended up picking up the saxophone.  Because of that band teacher so many years ago, ARCC now got the chance to listen to Charles Walker serenade the morning with his trusted sax.


BANDWIDTH DAILYCongrats on your growth! What inspired your creative path? Charles Walker: I have always loved to perform. When I was in diapers, I had an acoustic guitar and would run around the house for our company, strumming and making up songs. As I got older, I would write plays for church, cast (and star in) them, and perform them on special occasions. At the same time, I was sneaking away to practice saxophone and then in high school, piano. I scored a couple leads in high school plays and became drum major for our marching band. When I arrived at college, we were required to form jazz combos. After performing out a few times with these combos, I really got a taste for the stage as a musician. I loved watching people dancing and applauding and so I formed formed my first full band, a blues band. Today I still love performing because of the joy it brings. I love inspiring and connecting with people from all over the US. I love the rush of executing a song with precision and energy. And, of course, I love music itself. 

BANDWIDTH DAILY: The music business is a roller coaster, what are some of your proudest moments? CW: One of my proudest moments is winning a WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) award. Porsche (the female singer in the band) and I were running late because of a ticket mix up, so when we walked into the ceremony, we literally heard, "And the winner of the Best Soul/R&B Band this year goes to...The Charles Walker Band". Porsche had to throw her coat down and we rushed to the stage to shake hands with Milwaukee's mayor and receive the award. It all felt like some fairy tale. It was amazing to feel honored by our peers that night. It took us 11 years to get to that point of hard work, growth, and persistence, but it was worth it. Another big peak would be touring Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey. The first guitar player in the band was Turkish, so when he graduated and moved back home, he kept telling us we should come and tour over there. After about a year we finally listened, and with his help, set up a two week tour over there. I had never experienced being a rock star until I went there. They had gear set up for us, packed houses, screaming fans. While all that was great, what was even more amazing were all the people we met as we travelled. People were incredibly friendly, helping us figure out where we were going, or offering a smile when they couldn't understand us. It was one of the best (and eye opening) experiences of my life. 

BANDWIDTH DAILY: Capitalizing on momentum is key to success, what new music or events are on the way? CW: We have spent a year on our upcoming release "Reckless n Young" and we literally are finishing up some background vocals this week and sending it off to be mixed and mastered. We hope the release will come out in late fall or early 2017. We are very proud of this new album because of the intense time we have taken in writing and producing the album. When we started it a year ago (August 2015), I wanted to feature a song on the album to illustrate my respect for the tremendous contribution Prince had given the music industry. We lost him a few months ago, and now, more than ever, it's really important to me that the song (called "Damn" be released in honor of him. Though he obviously was an icon, most people really don't realize his true musical genius. People don't realize how many instruments he had mastered. Or the fact that he came back from a huge defeat early on when his record label pulled him from touring because he was, at that time, a poor stage performer. It's very important that his huge impact on the industry and the world not be forgotten. Last year we played 124 shows. This year our goal is to play 150. We are well on our way to that as our tour schedule has picked up. We are always reinventing our current music and as well as writing new stuff. This fall we are headed to NYC, Atlanta, and everywhere in between on the coast. We also take serious pride in making our live arrangements engaging and our shows fun to watch as well as to participate in. You will see us getting the crowd to sing along, moving around and off the stage. Our goal isn't to satisfy our audience. It is to amaze them.